Exoskeleton makes software engineer ”Iron Man” with 20 times greater strength

December 9th, 2008 - 6:21 pm ICT by ANI  

Melbourne, Dec 9 (ANI): Software engineer Rex Jameson literally turned into ”Iron Man” when he stepped into a robotic soldier, and his strength got multiplied as many as 20 times.
In fact, by using the outfit’’s claw-like metal hand extensions, he grips a weight set’’s bar at a demonstration and knocks off hundreds of repetitions, and once he even managed to press it 500 times.
“Everyone gets bored much more quickly than I get tired,” the Daily telegraph quoted Jameson as saying.
Working for robotics firm Sarcos Inc in Salt Lake City, which is under contract with the US. Army, Jameson is helping assess the 68kg suit’’s viability for tomorrow’’s soldiers.
The Army believes that someday soldiers will be able to wear the exoskeleton suits, which work by sensing wearer’’s movement and amplifying it instantly,
But now it’’s focusing on applications such as loading cargo or repairing heavy equipment.
However, the major drawbacks of the technology are its cost and short battery life of just 30 minutes.
But the technology already offers evidence that robotics can amplify human muscle power in reality.
“Everybody likes the idea of being a superhero, and this is all about expanding the capabilities of a human,” said Stephen Jacobsen, chief designer of the Sarcos suit.
Jack Obusek, a former colonel now with the Army’’s Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center in the Boston suburb of Natick, believes that in future, the robot-suited soldiers could be unloading heavy ammunition boxes from helicopters, lugging hundreds of pounds of gear over rough terrain or even relying on the suit’’s strength-enhancing capabilities to make repairs to tanks that break down in inconvenient locations.
In fact, Jacobsen said that the factory workers would someday use the technology to perform manual labour more easily, and firefighters more quickly carrying heavy gear up stairwells of burning buildings. Even disabled people may find uses for the technology.
“We see the value being realized when these suits can be built in great numbers for both military and commercial uses, and they start coming down in cost to within the range of the price of a small car,” said Jacobsen.
However, he declined to estimate how much the suit might cost in mass production. Just like the brain sends signals to tendons to get muscles to move, the computer sends instructions to hydraulic valves. The valves mimic tendons by driving the suit’’s mechanical limbs, thus replicating and amplifying the wearer’’s movements almost instantly.
“With all the previous attempts at this technology, there has been a slight lag time between the intent of the human, and the actual movement of the machine,” said Obusek.
In the demonstration, the bulky suit slowed Jameson a bit, but he could move almost normally.
He could successfully bounce back a soccer ball, thrown at him. He repeatedly struck a punching bag and, slowly he climbed stairs in the suit’’s clunky aluminum boots.
“It feels less agile than it is. Because of the way the control laws work, it’’s ever so slightly slower than I am. And because we are so in tune with our bodies” responses, this tiny delay initially made me tense,” said Jameson.
“I can regain my balance naturally after stumbling - something I discovered completely by accident. It takes no special training, beyond learning to relax and trust the robot,” he said. (ANI)

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