Tag Archives: exoskeleton

Exoskeletons now available to rent

Cyberdyne HAL exoskeletonIf you’ve got some protracted heavy lifting to do in your garden, or if you just fancy indulging that long-running fantasy of re-enacting the cargo-lifter vs. alien queen deathmatch from the last bit of Aliens, then boy do I have some good news for you. Remember the ‘HAL’ agricultural exoskeletons we mentioned early last year? Well, they’re now available to rent to the public, according to an article in H+ Magazine:

The HAL exoskeleton […] has robotic limbs that strap to your arms and legs — providing much fuller mobility than a wheelchair. The suit’s backpack contains a battery and computer controller. When a HAL-assisted person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles, and very weak traces of these signals can be detected on the surface of the skin. The HAL exoskeleton identifies these signals using a sensor, and a signal is sent to the suit’s power unit telling the suit to move in synch with the wearer’s own limbs.

HAL comes in three sizes — small, medium and large and weighs in at 23kg (50.7 lbs). A single leg version rents for 150,000 yen ($1,570) a month, while a two-leg unit goes for 220,000 yen ($2,300) a month. Cyberdyne has yet to announce when HAL will go on sale to the public or what the price tag will be.

When you consider that these are the first publically-available examples of this technology, those rental prices don’t actually seem that large in real terms – though still a bit much for the casual gardener or DIY homebuilder. Even so, Futurismic‘s own Tom James said just a little over a year ago that “it’ll be about 10 years before [exoskeletons] are available to consumers: and will probably be expensive, heavily regulated and licensed when they are“; it looks like they’ve arrived sooner, cheaper and more freely available than we expected. Though I’d have thought (or maybe just hoped) they’d look a little less like a Buck Rogers prop… [image courtesy Cyberdyne]

But in the spirit of making science-fictional predictions, I reckon it’ll be about five years before we see some sort of competitive extreme-sport deployment of the same technology… maybe the pro-wrestling scene will see exoskeletal combat as the next level in sports entertainment?

By the way, the linked article is from the web-based version of the just-published fall issue of H+ Magazine, which is always full of stuff with a distinctly Futurismic flavour – go check it out.

ReWalk exoskeleton video – marketing the future as the present

ReWalk is an Israeli-developed exoskeleton suit that gives paraplegics the ability to stand, walk – and even drive. This story has been floating around for a few days (including some typically tasteless Robocop comparisons from UK tabloid news outlets), but m1k3y at grinding.be posted the video and it looked so science fictional – that perfect balance between “wow, check it out” and no-big-deal workaday reality – that I thought it deserved a re-run here:

See what I mean about workaday? The whole atmosphere of the video is low-tech, almost mundane. Perhaps they’re playing down the technological angle for fear of attaching stigma, but it’s about as un-Robocop in style as you could imagine. What will promotional videos for the first commercially available brain-machine interfaces look like?

Exoskeletal Awesomeness

Human augmentation and science fictional brilliance collide with real life in the HULC – the Human Universal Loads Carrier. According to sales-jabber from the Berkeley Bionics website:

The Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC™) is the third generation exoskeleton system from Berkeley Bionics. It incorporates the features of ExoHiker™ and ExoClimber™, exhibiting two independent characteristics:

1) It takes up to 200 pounds without impeding the wearer (Strength Augmentation)

2) It decreases its wearer’s metabolic cost (Endurance Augmentation).

Like most people I’m ambivalent about the idea of a runaway military industrial complex, but aside from the military applications this sort of technology has a lot of applications for paraplegics and the disabled. Check out the video for more corporate propaganda and quasi-transhumanist possibilities:

Fans of Iain M Banks’ wonderful Player of Games will be fully aware of the dark side of exoskeletal systems. My bet is it’ll be about 10 years before these are available to consumers: and will probably be expensive, heavily regulated and licensed when they are.

[via Gizmodo]

Exoskeletons for agriculture

Japanese agriculture exoskeleton Usually, when we hear about some new technological prototype that’s seemingly stepped off of the page of a science fiction story, it’s the military that always seems to get first dibs on the new toys.

So how refreshing to read this story about the robotic exoskeleton power-suit that a team at the University Of Tokyo have developed … specifically to boost the strength of Japan’s ageing farmers. [Image borrowed from linked article]

[tags]robotics, technology, exoskeleton, agriculture[/tags]

Military exoskeleton prototype – mech-warriors in the offing

Sarcos robot exoskeleton It’s not quite the loader that Ripley uses to ass-kicking effect in Aliens, but it’s a (mechanically augmented) step in the right direction. A robotics startup called Sarcos has been demoing a prototype robotic exoskeleton that mimics the movements of its human operator while amplifying his (or her) strength. Don’t rush off to your local recruiting station just yet, though – Sarcos estimates a five year development process before the suit is ready to rock. There’s a video if you want to click through on the link, by the way. [Via OhGizmo!][Image lifted from linked article]

[tags]robot, military, exoskeleton, prototype[/tags]