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Commercial Exoskeletons 201

Posted by Zonk
from the whirrr-stomp-whirrr-stomp dept.
FalconZero writes "For those of you with superhuman aspirations, your dream may be a step closer; New Scientist (recently) and the Japan Times (last year) covered Yoshiyuki Sankai's work at the University of Tsukuba in Japan developing powered exoskeletons with commercial versions expected soon costing between $14,000 and $19,000 (£7,500-£10,000). Other work with exoskeletons previously covered here(1), here(2) and here(3)."
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Commercial Exoskeletons

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  • BLEEX (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:38AM (#12197807)
    Berkeley has some videos of their BLEEX [berkeley.edu] (Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton) Project on their web page.

    Video [berkeley.edu]

    I swear that guy in the video is the Star Wars kid, if was making robot noises with his mouth he would have me convinced.
    • Re:BLEEX (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Seumas (6865)
      What happens when these things go berserk and won't stop? Or they tear off your legs? And how would having stronger lower limbs help you carry heavier loads? You'd still fuck up your back, hips, spine without mechanical assistance there, too.

      That being said, I have the idle money for one of these units at the mentioned price, if it is cool enough.
      • Re:BLEEX (Score:5, Informative)

        by FuturePastNow (836765) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:43AM (#12198075)
        The load is attached to a frame at the top of the legs, so it adds no weight to the user. They can't tear off your legs because they have the same range of motion as your legs. And it can't "go berserk" because its only control system is the human wearing it. It basically allows a person to carry a heavy load for the same distance they would be able to cover with no load.

        At least, that's what I got from reading that site for a few minutes.
        • My question is this. Why can't we combine two of these with one of them being contolled by the other? With the proper video link between the two a person should be able to remotely controll the other device. This would mean that the device could go to places human could not survive or too dangerous. I think that this could lead to huge factories here in the United States with the vast majority of the workers being in China or India. They will be able to work from their homes.
      • by aiabx (36440)
        I'd be more worried that an evil penguin would override the controls and use it (and you) to steal heavily guarded jewels.
        -aiabx
  • Halo? (Score:2, Funny)

    by bfizzle (836992)
    The first step to real life Halo
  • by Master_T (836808) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:38AM (#12197809)
    Welcome our new "bio-cybernic" overlords.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      They say the porn industry is always the first to adopt new technology... I for one welcome our robo-porn overlords.
  • Ok... (Score:5, Funny)

    by strider44 (650833) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:39AM (#12197811)
    So when do we get mounted guns?
  • Exoman (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WeirdKid (260577) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:41AM (#12197818)
    So I was trying to find one *good* Exoman site, and I couldn't find any. (It was a short-lived 1977 TV series about a paralyzed scientist who created his own exo-suit in which he would fight crime yada yada yada).
    • Re:Exoman (Score:5, Informative)

      by sTalking_Goat (670565) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:51AM (#12197865) Homepage
      what about Mantis [imdb.com]? Same concept, better FX.
    • As I recall, Exoman was only a TV movie. It never became a series.

      But I do remember the concept. It was a cautionary tale for any director of an Iron Man movie: the only way to show facial expressions of Exoman was to pretend the camera was inside the helmet.

      But the suiting up process was fasinating. He had a clamshell tanning-bed-like machine that he'd swing himself into, and it'd join the two halves, anterior and posterior, sealing him inside. It was a thought provoking procedure for an armor happy ki
  • Eh (Score:5, Funny)

    by daeley (126313) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:42AM (#12197826) Homepage
    God, exoskeletons have been done to death -- see one giant bipedal forklift, you've seen them all.

    Get back to me when we have commercial powered endoskeletons. Preferably with the razor-like claw add-on.
  • by Rixel (131146) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:44AM (#12197835)
    With one of these and a perl script, I don't even have to work at masturbation.

    If I can only incorporate that roomba into this...
  • Blame it on Gundam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:44AM (#12197837)
    I'm pretty sure that only reason why they're even devising these things is because of Japan's robot anime. You know, some guy jumps into a huge robot and control it through sensors all over his body.

    There is some guy here in Japan who is that crazy about the anime that developed his own exo-skeleton to move his toy Mazinga robot around. They had him on TV wearing his Mazinga get up and fighting other geek's toy robots on one of the TV shows here. Apparently there are a lot of these robot hobbyists as well as uni students building these things.

    Mazinga, BTW, is a really old anime, but not far removed from the likes of say Gundam, Voltron and a billion and one other ripoffs.
    • by sTalking_Goat (670565) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:53AM (#12197875) Homepage
      yeah, I'm sure helping spinal injury victims and the advancement of science and technology has nothing to do with it...
      • Oh come on. The only reason why these guys are interested in building these things is because the idea of a robot battle suit captures their imagination.

        Incidently, as you say, such an exo-skeleton would be beneficial to the elderly as a useful side benefit. However believe me, a lot of the geeks here working on these things weren't inspired to do so by the idea of a robo-grandparent.

        Once they're finished building super mega mega man, then they might get around to building the mecha grandparent frame. ;)
    • I don't dispute your point, but Mazinga was not the first. There had been Tetsujin 28 gou (Iron Man model 28) [tetsujin28.jp] (heh, they made a remake), Giant Robo (do you own google) a.k.a Johnny Sacco (why?) before Mazinga Z to name a few that I remember.

      I think Tetsujin was the oldest of the fighting robot genre. But obviously the author was inspired by Atom (a.k.a Astroboy), a work of his master. Oh, when I think about it, both Tetsujin and Giant Robo were created by the same author. They were not exoskeleton, but
    • Spoken like a true fan. Having a robot, giant or otherwise, is hardly an original plot device, so it's unfair to over-generalize and insult every other anime out there that has ever used a robot. Not only that, just because you use a giant robot doesn't mean your story's any good.

      Mazinger Z [mazinworld.com] was released in America under the name of Tranzor Z [absoluteanime.com], so I'm sure quite a few people here know of it.

      As for the Japanese, they like robots and therefore feature it in their anime, not the other way around. It's an i
    • 'm pretty sure that only reason why they're even devising these things is because of Japan's robot anime. You know, some guy jumps into a huge robot and control it through sensors all over his body.
      Nope, anime has zero to do with it. In fact, anime is probably the copycat here as interest in and development of powered exoskeletons goes back into the 1950's.
  • An exoskeleton would be potentially useful for urban combat (punching through doors, knowck down walls, etc.), but probably less than you might think. Short of just walking through wall, an exoskeleton would probably be difficult to maneuver in dense environments, and those using early models would be at a lot greater risk of accidental immobilization (i.e., a sitting duck) and other potentially fatal equipment failures than someone in, say, a tank.

    Alas, for Robert A. Heinlein's vision of Powersuits in Starship Troopers, exoskeletons, like those giant Japanese Mechs, are very cool in fiction, but probably not terribly useful in reality compared to more mundane alternatives.

    Lawrence Person, Science Fiction Writer

    • "...an exoskeleton would probably be difficult to maneuver in dense environments"

      talk about your understatement! did you see the pictures? the guy's got a backpack the size of, --well, i don't know, but it's friggin big!-- just to hold the electronics!

      "...probably not terribly useful in reality"

      except you could carry much heavier (i.e. more powerful) weapons and a lot more (and bigger) ammo.
      • except you could carry much heavier (i.e. more powerful) weapons and a lot more (and bigger) ammo.

        The most obvious weapon I can think of would be a .50 caliber heavy machine gun. Currently it takes several men to carry one(or else a vehicle like a Humvee), a suit might allow one man to carry and use a weapon capable of taking out light armored vehicles. You could also add some heavy body armor- in short, create a mobile machine gun nest. It's going to have its limitations, but any technology- aircraft,

        • If we're going to go through all the trouble of having machine guns, heavy armor, and articulated leg mechanisms, might as well just throw in a grenade launcher an start building these [galacticem...tabank.com], then.
        • Interesting thoughts, but a highly mobile one-man machinegun nest.

          If theres three things I learned playing various mechwarrior games, its that vs ground opponents a mechs strength is mobility.

          I also played apache longbow sims and learned that the mech is not just a 'hog' on legs; its an infantryman with a punch. A mech can loiter to set up an ambush or to defend an area.

          In the games they were severely limited by munitions; the missiles were appaling. I always wanted to try a loadout of winchester hellfir
        • The most obvious weapon I can think of would be a .50 caliber heavy machine gun.

          I don't think that there would be a real advantage in bigger guns, but rather having the capacity to carry more supplies, and communications gear. Combat isn't won or lost by having bigger guns, it is won by having better information and supply capabilities.
    • Anything that is bi-pedal is not eneregy efficient. It is more difficult to conserve momentum with it. Without incredible specialization it would also be extremely difficult to obtain any sort of precision of movement or manipulation. Perhaps the biggest problem: balance. The more control given to the "pilot" the less they could regulate balance and weight transfer in the machine. These things, I am sure work well for the disabled and old people, but they aren't going to be used by technological su
      • Its all a tradeoff. Lose efficiency for increased flexibility.
      • by Jeremi (14640) on Monday April 11, 2005 @02:37AM (#12198267) Homepage
        Perhaps the biggest problem: balance


        I think balance is starting become a solved problem. Look at the Segway for starters... plus previous Slashdot articles have linked to some very impressive videos of (small) robots doing handstands, ballet, etc. So it appears that balance is just a matter of having a fast enough computer running a clever enough feedback algorithm.


        I think a more difficult problem will be energy: how does your exoskeleton carry enough fuel/energy to be useful without adding too much weight or compromising the user's safety?


      • The greatest ATV on earth is a billy goat.

        You can talk about wheels all you want, but all you'd be doing is turning a soldier into a Dalek. They have cool laser beams but they're totally defeated by stairs.

        The boys over at NASA keep pounding their brains trying to figure out the most efficient, most manueverable designs for roving around Mars. At the end of the day, what they'd really like is something that could walk like a human (or that cool bot from "Red Planet").

      • I disagree.

        Yes it is true that in the past, bi-pedal walkers were less energy efficient. But the new ones have enhanced algorithyms that are designed to conserve momentum. The most modern ones no longer do the "step by step" movement, but instead "flow", absorbing energy and storing it as needed.

        Will they match wheeled travel on roads? (Cars) No. But they will beat off road Tracked vehicles (tanks).

    • These would be better suited for the classic "gate guard" with 100-200lb payload you could put quit a bit of armor on that guy. That and a 30-50lb weapon. The intimidation factor would be very high.
    • An exoskeleton would be potentially useful for urban combat (punching through doors, knowck down walls, etc.)

      Man, I'm just waiting for the exoskeletons with the built-in spellchecker and "Typing Assist" feature.
    • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:29AM (#12198459) Homepage
      I disagree.

      Take a squad of 25 men, and put them in suits (albiet suits somewhat more advanced than these). Like Heinlein's, to a large degree. Making them nuclear powered might be practical, to some degree, if they were to give a significant edge in battle.

      If the suits were 8' fall or so and had thick (ie, tank-level reactive) body armor, the squad of 25 could very likely out-maneuver most tank/armor batallions of the world, and most certainly out-gun all but the most intense infantry. They'd be able to withstand multiple RPG-type hits (possibly, provided the soldier isn't injured due to percussion), and would be harder to hit than a vehicle by far. With the assistance of advanced machinery and electronics, they'd likely be able to do a better, faster job sniping than most snipers, and be able to carry much larger guns than an unarmored soldier - though probably not quite as big as a vehicle-mounted weapon.

      Think of them as something between a soldier on foot with a troop rifle (M16 or BAR) and a HV with a 100mm cannon. Maybe they'd carry a 30mm cannon with a couple thousand rounds, a decent sniper rifle, and a 20mm grenade launcher with plenty of ammo for it - significantly more power than even a squad could dish out, but not as much as an armored vehicle.

      I don't imagine such suits being used to replace, say, foot infantry or even advanced groups like 1st Recon USMC or Navy SEAL. I think they'd largely be used in support capacity for those squads, or for the troops with less prowess. They'd likely get carted around on a transport truck, just like any other piece of specialized machinery - only deployed when needed (such as, say, for guard duty).

      I obviously don't think such things are near to implimentation or deployment, but provided things don't tank in the near future, I suspect something similar - or at least a step in that direction - will be coming to the US Armed Forces within a while.
      • i just LOVE the fact that you are all sweaty for enormous battle robots, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake, but you are frightened of RFID.
      • I'll go a load less sci fi than the parent, and try too put this in prespective:

        Why isn't every Marine in Iraq, etc not wrapped in 6 inches of Kevlar from head to toe? Because Kevlar is HEAVY. The real advantage of a Mech type suit is that you can make the average Soldier harder to kill. You don't need to make it superhuman strong, and able to punch through walls, just make it able to handle a normal range of motion / speed, and then wrap enough Kevlar on it to make a person immune to small arms fire.

      • The loss of mobility would make it not worth using. Once a firefight starts, its all about cover and concealment... not armor. Kevlar helmets aren't meant to stop a bullet, they're meant to deflect a stray one. The robot would not be able to stop multiple rpg hits and it'd be more likely to take a hit because you'd be unable to get into the prone position.

        Frankly I'd rather be prone behind some cover then standing up with thick armor.

        A mech would be better suited to increase load capacity as another po
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:53AM (#12197874)

    I mean really, of all people...the Japanese coming up with something like this? No way.

  • There should be an international ban on using the name HAL for any computer, piece of a computer, or anything with a computer attached.
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:55AM (#12197883) Journal
    I posted this before, and now we get this story posted where it actually fits the best. Got to get a better crystal ball. If you've seen this before, move along. Data posted here for sake of completeness....

    As noted in another thread:

    Neogentronyx is currently in the process of constructing a Bipedal Exo-Skeletal Robotic Vehicle [neogentronyx.com] [neogentronyx.com], known as a Mech and designated NMX04-1A. The purpose of the NMX04-1A is proof of concept and to make the first bold step towards full production of Mecha vehicles, affordable to civilians and not just commercial entities. There are plenty of pretty pictures and info here [neogentronyx.com] [neogentronyx.com]. See also these larger more recent pics [coasttocoastam.com] [coasttocoastam.com]

    Another fine product of Alaska, approximately 18 ft tall (7 meters)

    As someone noted:

    Bring a few cans of WD-40. Looks like they are assembling this thing out in the open! No building to put it in!

    ...........

    Do you think that he's any competition?

    • That's pretty wild. The presentation of the project is that they're mechanics who have bought powerloader parts and done a "junkyard wars" style development cycle.

      Yet the tone of the site is very sure that this will work. One of the most interesting assertions is that with a human piloting the mech, balance is not the problem. Turning the legs enough is.

      They've also claimed to have a "gyroscope rig" on the engine, to turn it as the mech turns. That sounds reasonable, as the engine is just there to provide
  • -I have invented this new type of an exoskeleton. No longer will I have to feel like prisoners of the planet with gravity as a jailer. Now all I need is a test-subject.

    -Pick me, pick me!

    -Great! The exoskeleton will be attached to your front like so, and I will be attached to the exoskeleton by my back like this. These belts with sharp sharp needles will be attached to the five extremeties of your body.

    -When will this thing start moving?

    -When I pull on the belts!

    --
    thank you, thank you.
    I just miss
  • by flyingsquid (813711) on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:59AM (#12197906)
    Create an event which is half Battle Bots and half Ultimate Fighting Championship!
  • Awesome! (Score:5, Funny)

    by the pickle (261584) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:00AM (#12197911) Homepage
    Now the fall of Oscorp is just one successful test away!

    p
  • by vought (160908) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:01AM (#12197914)
    "Get away from her, you BITCH!"
  • by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:02AM (#12197917) Homepage Journal
    Neat as this stuff is, I doubt it will really help the majority of mobility impaired like my father. My father suffered from severe arthritis that left his knees and hips unable to bear his weight, and of course flexing them was excruciating, assisted or not.

    A lot of wear an tear is from load bearing, and perhaps these powered suite address this to a degree, but I suspect in many cases they would exacerbate the problem for arthritis sufferers by adding to the weight load on joints, even while enabling superhuman lifting capabilities.

    Even if they address the load issue on joints, it is overkill from what is really needed by tens of millions. I have not seen such a thing, but does anyone know of some kind of lightweight synchronized brace system? Something that would distribute the body's load to the hips directly and lock when the joints aren't moving? I have seen leg braces before, but not articulated ones that auto-lock. One thing that my father believed contributed to the breakdown of his joints were the long periods he spent standing doing his job as a chef. Again, a locking brace system would seem the answer for people that need to be on their feet long periods, but may have the beginnings of joint break down.

    • RTFA!!!!!!!

      1) You don't wear the exoskeleton, rather you rid one. Thus your objection about load bearing is totally misguided.
      2) Guess what, this heavy exoskeleton is a stop on the way to build "lightweight synchronized brace system". You managed to completely misunderstand the technical issues.

    • My father has about the same mobility problems. Arthritis and two knee replacements.

      If you add a weight bearing harness to such a rig, you can transfer the upper body weight off the bio-legs and onto the exo-skeleton.

      Than the issue would simply be making an effective and comfortable harness. I could see such systems replacing those scooters we see all over the place.

      If the bio-guys are right and they can remotely tap the brainstem for signals, I can easily see how this could replace wheelchairs for Par
  • by A Sea and Cake (874933) on Monday April 11, 2005 @01:12AM (#12197954)
    This seems a lot more appropriate for applications in construction than in the military or in medicine.

    Digging/moving/lifting/mixing/carrying machines are generally designed to do jobs that humans can do, but on a larger scale and with more power. It seems to me that a person in a powered exoskeleton could perform such tasks pretty well, given the right tools or attachments.
    • I remember a Dean Ing story about an exoskeleton developed for logging ... one of the (many) environmental issues with logging is the damage done by constructing logging roads. A walk-in walk-out machine could reduce this damage, and is also a tool for selective rather than clear-cut harvesting.
  • "It's the wrong trousers, Gromit, and they've gone wrong!" ~ Wallace
  • Round 1 . . . Fight! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kai.chan (795863)
    Roboshark [slashdot.org] vs. Land Walker [slashdot.org] vs. Exoskeleton [slashdot.org]

    Who wins? My vote is on the Exoskeleton. But the Roboshark equiped with laser eyes might pose a challenge.
  • his venture firm?? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Did anyone else notice that his "venture firm" is called cyberdyne??? How was this not harped on at length? Are we actually tired of allusions to skynet's infamous creator?
  • This hack will have to do until I get mental powers. Robotic muscles, hell yeah, in places letting yhou do things you couldn't before. I bet this thing could blow glass better than I could after while.
  • What was that thing she was using to pound the alien ? Looked exoskeletonish to me.
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday April 11, 2005 @02:58AM (#12198352)
    I can honestly say to someone: "Kiss my shiny metal ass!"
  • Consumer version? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:04AM (#12198375) Homepage
    What I'm really wondering about is what kind of regulations there will be when the average joe can buy one. If they are within that price range, thats like a low end new car, and I know more than one geek who would be willing to drop that much on such a fine piece of equipment.

    But you know they're going to regulate it to death with things like requiring a license, etc. I'm fine with that, but I really do hope they let this be as commercial as other modes of transportation and disability assistance.

    I can't wait for the import tuners to get their hands on this and make it look GOOD. Although it would probably have 5 tv screens, 900W stereo, and neon lighting all over...

    • I now seed a low rider version with extendable legs. Guys standing around on street corners, "dancing" by going up 5 ft, then back down 5ft, with the entire carrying capacity of the mech being used to carry HUGE speakers, blasting out music.
  • I always thought that if you were a billionaire, like Bill Gates, a good use for your money would be to develop a suit of armor to duplicate that of Iron Man, as closely as possible. I mean, a lot of it is feasible, with ten figures to back R&D. What else are you going to do with your friggin' money? Cure cancer? World hunger?
  • This project was originally posted here [slashdot.org]in August 2003. I guess they've come a long way.
  • when the machines start drilling down to Zion.

    Until then, I'll wait till they work out the bugs and add the guns.

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