Most of us are familiar with superhero suits that enable the user to accomplish everyday tasks with power, control, and endurance far beyond the normal human limit. For example, Iron Man’s suit is an exoskeleton—a wearable robot that assists and eases his movement. Although this sort of technology was once only in movies and books, it is now becoming reality. Creators such as Expo Bionics, Rewalk, SCIC, and Raytheon are all breaking boundaries and stretching the limits of robots to create machines that heal and enhance.
How do these pieces of engineering magic function? For those who know how to walk and can move their muscles in a corresponding manner but cannot support their weight, the suit assists the movements, decreasing pain and discomfort. These suits can also be programed with walking algorithms, moving as if they are the real legs of the user and operating solely according to the code rather than the neuron signals or slight movements of the muscles. Additionally, the exoskeletons can be used to enhance soldiers in combat.
Finding ways to prolong life or heal injuries is a key element for any culture. One use for exoskeleton technology is for patients who have a spinal injury or muscle atrophy. For example, a group of Spanish scientists, the CSIC, designed and manufactured an exoskeleton especially for children who suffer from a damaged spine. If the spine does not function properly, then the child cannot walk. Thankfully, these scientists are using the technology they have created to make an impact on someone’s life. Another design company, Rewalk Robotics, is creating suits for adults, giving them a chance to reintegrate into normal activities. People in wheelchairs often cannot participate in actions and events with other people. Thanks to these exoskeletons, disabled people can now have the mobility, ease, and liberty of a person with a fully functioning body. This is what a medical exoskeleton looks like:
(image from popular mechanics.com Know Your Mechanical Exoskeltons)
The military is a surprisingly large investor in state-of-the-art inventions since incredible machines can enhance the capability of our soldiers and operations. They can use the the amplified suits to assist soldiers so they can operate with greater endurance, speed, and strength. These particular suits focus on the power they can deliver to already capable fighters.
Finally, one more worthy mention is James Hobson, also known on Youtube as The Hacksmith, who is developing an interesting exoskeleton. He built a working pneumatic exoskeleton—much the same as the suit in Elysium—in his garage using no high-end pieces of equipment–besides a degree in engineering–and is able to lift a car with this awesome device. He later plans to make a full-fledged Iron Man suit that can fly as well as grant him amplified strength. However, most fascinating at all, Hobson believes that these exoskeletons may become commonplace in the near future.
—For Further reading—
Ekso Bionics: http://eksobionics.com
Rewalk Robotics: http://rewalk.com CSIC:https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-06/snrc-wfc060816.php
Military Use: http://www.army-technology.com/projects/raytheon-xos-2-exoskeleton-us/ Hacksmith Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/MstrJames
Featured Image from scienceabc.com Science behind Iron-man:whatmakes his suit so powerful?
Ekso Bionics. “Walking as One.” eksobionics.com, 2011, eksobionics.com. Accessed 26 Oct. 2017.
Rewalk.com. rewalk.com. Accessed 26 Oct. 2017.
Spanish National Research council. “World’s First Child-exoskeleton for Spinal Muscular Atrophy.”
eurekalert.org, www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-06/snrc-wfc060816.php. Accessed 26
Kable. “Raytheon XOS 2 Exoskeleton, Second-Generation Robotics Suit, United States of America.”
Accessed 26 Oct. 2017.