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Robotics Science

Power Armor For the Elderly 279

Posted by Zonk
from the super-monkey-rocket-old-lady-force-go dept.
aicrules writes "The question of how to care for the growing number of people in the upper age bracket has a new answer - assistive power armor for the elderly." From the article: "The sleek, high-tech get-up looks like a white suit of armor. It straps onto a person's arms, legs and back and is equipped with a computer, motors and sensors that detect electric nerve signals transmitted from the brain when a person tries to move his limbs. When the sensors detect the nerve signals, the computer starts up the relevant motors to assist the person's motions. Sankai says the suit, dubbed 'Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) 5,' can let a person who can barely do an 176-pound leg press handle 397 pounds."
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Power Armor For the Elderly

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  • by TPIRman (142895) * on Saturday July 23, 2005 @02:42AM (#13142630)
    In Korea, only old people are Robocop.
  • Oh noes! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Now we have to be wary of an army of mecha-geriatrics!
  • Muscles (Score:4, Interesting)

    by $exyNerdie (683214) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @02:44AM (#13142641) Homepage Journal
    That's going to make their already weak muscles weaker.Muscles grow on consisten application of resistance....
    • Re:Muscles (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sj0 (472011) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @03:20AM (#13142764) Homepage Journal
      If you're at the point where you need it, odds are this is not going to cause more harm than good.

      But, I'm in the prime of my life, and I have no problems saying this: I WANT ONE!!!
    • Re:Muscles (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ozmanjusri (601766) <[aussie_bob] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Saturday July 23, 2005 @03:23AM (#13142772) Journal
      That's going to make their already weak muscles weaker.Muscles grow on consisten application of resistance.

      It doesn't have to. You could dial in as much resistance as you want. Consistency is important to frail people, and often fear of injury dissuades them from any exercise at all. This would help.
      • Right... I was thinking about it as controlled dial-in resistance as well. I can imagine that you can use it to work out with as well. Dial in resistance, and do arm curls against the exoskeleton. Same with the legs in a seated position; just switch into workout mode and have an incremental resistance program that is always with you.

    • Re:Muscles (Score:3, Interesting)

      by krunk4ever (856261)
      i've always wondered, if you lifted imaginary weights, but you put a lot of energy into trying to lift it, meaning you can actually see my arm shaking trying to lift this imaginary weight, how much exercise am i doing? is it really the same as lifting 0lbs? i mean, you can be sweating lifting imaginary weights. i know that the resistance isn't there, but much works is my body doing when imagining resistance and my body against it?
      • Re:Muscles (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Chiralhydra (807903)
        There was a study done a while back where some people lifted little finger weights, some did nothing, and some imagined lifting finger weights. The people actually doing the weights increased strength by 30% or so (IIRC), and the people imagining it increased by 20%, with no effect for the controls. Apparently it stengthens the nerve pathways that control the muscle, thereby allowing stronger signals to get through. So, there ya go, imagination can make you stronger! :D
      • Re:Muscles (Score:2, Interesting)

        If you use your own muscles' tension to create resistance to a given motion, as in say a military press, you can build strength in the same muscle groups as with the traditional, weighted equivalent, but in my experience it's wasted effort compared to just lifting heavy weights with low repetitions, or the more difficult bodyweight exercises like one-armed pushups and one-legged squats.

        These latter two types of strength exercises are more efficient strength builders than pure tension exercises like the one

    • When people get old and frail, and develop weak musccles and bones - it's a reflection of te general poor medical condition. Old people get hip fractures, because they are SICK and debilitated. 50% of old people who get a hip fracture wind up dying within a year, not from the fracture, but because they are already dying. It's the same with their muscle mass. Mental and physical debilitation i.e cardiac, pulmonary, renal, all lead to this muscle wasting.

      This is like putting a patch on a completely bald

      • Old people get hip fractures, because they are SICK and debilitated. 50% of old people who get a hip fracture wind up dying within a year, not from the fracture, but because they are already dying.

        Actually, a large fraction of hip fractures occur because bones are weak from osteoporosis not systemic disease. Following hip fracture, bed rest causes further muscular atrophy and also inhibits clearing the lungs and airways, which sets the stage for acute pneumonia in people who were not particularly sick be

    • by typical (886006)
      Muscles grow on consisten application of resistance....

      Oh, I don't know. I'm guessing that the first time someone gets a cramp, there's going to be an awfully muscle-stressing situation produced.
    • Re:Muscles (Score:3, Insightful)

      by davebo (11873)
      Muscles grow on consistent application of resistance...


      Unless, of course, you happen to suffer from a degenerative muscle disease, in which case no matter how much you exercise your muscles get weaker.

      This kind of power assist device could be a godsend for folks in that condition, wouldn't you agree?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The sleek, high-tech get-up looks like a white suit of armor.

    For Christ's sake, it looks like the starting point for a storm trooper costume. What's this "white suit of armor" nonsense?
    • Oh no it's much worse than storm troopers. Suits that amplify strength? Gee why didn't I think of that.....maybe because it's existed in science fiction for years. Do you honestly think it will be long after someone perfects one of these before we're deploying troops with combat suits? How long before we have freakin mechs? Like every science fiction writer on the planet didn't see this coming.
  • by pintpusher (854001) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @02:45AM (#13142645) Journal
    I can't wait til I'm Elderly!

  • by synthex (891288) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @02:46AM (#13142647)
    It's a great concept, but can anyone see anything other than cost per suit preventing this being used as an aid for modern soldiers? With modification, obviously. Then they just need to teach the soldiers bad one liners ('Time to take out ze trash') and we have a super soldier/Arnold hybrid!
    • Can anyone see anything other than cost per suit preventing this being used as an aid for modern soldiers

      No, which is exactly why and what for: to enable soldiers to carry more armour and dish out more firepower.

      Don't think for a moment that military applications of super-strength will mean Superman-style punching villains in the face. It won't. Ever.

      However a major topic throughough the last century has been the weight of ammo and equipment a soldier has to carry. It's a real issue. That's one of the r
      • Now picture giving each squad a direct link to their officers _all_ the time. Bidirectional. You can know _exactly_ what's happening at each point, in real time, and the soldiers can know exactly what's expected of them. You can instantly see when your troops are being pinned and flanked, and how, and you can tell them exactly how to counter it. Better yet they too can see a bigger picture and react in a more intelligent manner - By copying and pasting from old slashdot stories.


        Some soldiers(Marines) cou
        • I may just be an average US grunt but I can drive the HMMWV and get my laundry done, while spelling "they're" correctly.
          • I may just be an average US grunt but I can drive the HMMWV and get my laundry done, while spelling "they're" correctly.

            Your an average military grunt, and I'm dyslexic and have poor writing skills when I don't double check.

            It's a comment on the structure as well as the average competence of your military. A lot of your allies are still upset over the "friendly fire" incidents we get when operating with you.
      • Energy? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by r6144 (544027)
        I guess such things would cost a ton of energy, especially in a military setting. Can reasonably-sized batteries last long enough for this? Or does every soldier need to carry around a few litres of gasoline, making them suicide bombs when hit by a bullet at the wrong place? ::shudders::
      • by bobbis.u (703273) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @06:52AM (#13143189)
        Individual armour has also been discarded precisely because of weight considerations: you _could_ make a breastplate that could stop a rifle round, but it was impractically heavy.


        This story and video [armytimes.com] show that American soldiers are currently using body armour that can stop rifle rounds. Although it doesn't say so anywhere, the sniper rifle was almost certainly 7.62mm. Here are some pictures of the aftermath: image 1 [msn.com] image 2 [msn.com].


        You are correct however that the armour is pretty heavy, but that is less of an issue for vehicle based soldiers rather than pure infantry.


        However, the problem with this powered exo-skeleton is that just the act of adding more weight, even if it is "self supporting", makes the soldier slower and less mobile (because of extra inertia). They need to be able to react very quickly and be able to dive to the ground, and jump behind cover, etc. There is a very long way to go before projects like this would actually improve a soldiers chances of survival. A better short term prospect is to continue to improve body armour to make it lighter.

        • However, the problem with this powered exo-skeleton is that just the act of adding more weight, even if it is "self supporting", makes the soldier slower and less mobile (because of extra inertia).

          Newton's Second Law states that F = ma - that is, the applied force and resultant acceleration are proportional. Increase the mass, and increase the force, and the acceleration remains the same.

          No, a soldier couldn't hope to be as nimble laden down with all this crap if he had to rely on his muscles, but that's
          • Is this then heavy infantry or light calvary?

            Historically heavy calvary didn't eliminate the need for light calvary, and heavy infantry didn't eliminate the need for light infantry. Expect this to continue, with technical mods...and interesting changes. E.g., how far can this go before it needs refueling?

          • I'm just thinking that here we're talking about the seamless integration of the soldier and the exoskeleton. I can imagine that the bulkiness of the unit itself might preclude certain movements completely.

            But the assumption here, (and I'm not a physicist or engineer) is that there has to be minimal lag between the soldier's reactions and the reaction time of the exoskeleton in order to realistically move as quickly as one would without the armor. So in order for there to be no drop-off in reaction time, th
        • Ah, but he did not say accelleration. He said inertia. He's referring to the conservation of momentum.

          For example, before and after a collision or some other change in force the momentum of the body is conserved. m1v1 = m2v2 (assuming fully elastic; m = mass, v = velocity). If the soldier is running and suddenly needs to stop, he will have a lot of inertia. Diving to the ground might break his back. Changing direction while mid-stride would also pose a challenge.
      • Don't think for a moment that military applications of super-strength will mean Superman-style punching villains in the face. It won't. Ever.

        You, Sir, are wrong, and have obviously never played the docu-game Splinter Cell.

    • you think that 30 grand per suit is going to be considered a downside to an Army that already spends thousands of dollars for a Shovel or Canteen (in 2005-halliburton-adjusted dollars)?

      Especially considering that the average US Footsoldier is expected to carry between 70-100 lbs of gear into combat, including laptop computers and countless other techno-devices...

      If i was a grunt in the army, i'd want one of these just so i didn't HAVE to actually lug all that crap into battle - at least not exerting 100%
    • can anyone see anything other than cost per suit preventing this being used as an aid for modern soldiers

      It also helps fend off giant butt ugly aliens with acid for blood!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I, for one, welcome our power-armoured, elderly, overlords.
  • Yes it helps elderly with strength, so does it help the older men with sex incase viagra doesn't get it up?
  • this might seem like a good idea, but if they're not using their muscles anymore and this thing does all the work what happens when they take this machine off? Or do they become so dependent on it they can't function without it?

    nice..... let's get them hooked on crack while we're at it.

    here's another idea. How about they get back in the gym and work on the muscles they already have. Sure they'll never win a strong man competition but at least they can get out of bed without robotic legs.

    • I have to agree with you for much of it. My grandfather absolutly hates how this one company pushes those electric chairs. He says it's generally only a few months before they become totally dependant on it(unable to stand up at all), and they generally go quickly downhill.

      But still, there are people, not all elderly, who are afflicted with diseases that sap their strength no matter what they do. For these people, it can be a godsend.

      Also, if you have an elderly person stuck in a wheelchair, you should
  • by TJ_Phazerhacki (520002) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @02:48AM (#13142660) Journal
    Welcome our new geriatric, robotic overlords...

    Wait... I've heard that one before.. where was it....

    OH YEAH, ON /, a few weeks ago. About the same story.

    DUPE!

    At what point is an artcle restating a previous article's content not a dupe? How far must it be removed to still be considered news?

    • Re:I for one... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705)
      At what point is an artcle restating a previous article's content not a dupe? How far must it be removed to still be considered news?

      Technically, it would need to be an update or a follow up article which included more information than the previous incarnation.

      This is a simple dupe. :-P
  • by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle.hotmail@com> on Saturday July 23, 2005 @02:49AM (#13142665) Homepage
    ...When can I get my V3 Legs?
  • WARNING: Persons denying the existence of robots may be robots themselves.
  • We'd all be old people.
  • by mendaliv (898932) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @03:00AM (#13142706)
    All you'll need to do to get this really popular in the states is to start showing Aliens over and over, and have this company's commercial mixed in.

    "Get away from her you BITCH!"
  • Ya gotta laugh don't ya?
  • I actually did RTFA and II saw no mention what so ever about Chainsaw Hands.

    While I may expect this to save me tons on Old Glory Robot Insurance [robotcombat.com] premiums, I would still not have the ability to rip through their nanocarbon exoskeleton, tear out their still beating fusion generator and smash it to pieces.

    Is it really so much to ask for???
    Gimme Chainsaw Hands DAGNABBIT!!
  • HAL-5 ?? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 23, 2005 @03:09AM (#13142728)
    So that's like 8995 more HALs before this is interesting.
  • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Saturday July 23, 2005 @03:12AM (#13142736) Journal
    for Schwarzenegger's next movie!

    They could combine the Terminator/RoboCop story line:

    Prime Directives:

    1. Get off my lawn!
    2. Protect the elderly.
    3. Uphold Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security.
  • by pHatidic (163975) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @03:12AM (#13142737)
    Can I use this to train for rowing? Do squats in this suit so that I shred the crap out of my quads faster than every before, so that I can squat 450 lbs naturally by the time race day rolls around?


    I know that if this would actually work, plenty of teams would pay a million dollars per unit for them. Who wants to give me a prototype to test out?

  • Grandpa 5 (Score:2, Funny)

    by cyrix (882273)
    Couldn't you see it coming after Johnny five? Asian man: What are you doing Grandpa 5? GP5: I went out galavanting with some young whipper snappers!! It was great, I felt alive again. Los Locos kick your ass, los locos kick your face, los locos kick your balls into outer space!!! Sing it with you yeh young whipper snapper..
  • Japan has seen a growing market for technology geared toward the elderly, who are making up an increasing chunk of the population as fewer younger Japanese choose to start families.

    A government report last week showed that pensioners made up a record 19.5 percent of the country's population in 2004 and that the ratio will grow rapidly, surpassing 35 percent in 2050.

    Did anyone else shudder at the image of senior citizens ambling down the street in robot suits? Just imagine the damage potential. What if th
  • by not-enough-info (526586) <forwardtodevnull@gmail.com> on Saturday July 23, 2005 @03:33AM (#13142797) Homepage Journal
    You have to realize though that the Japanese are desperate. While we have plenty of able bodied people to care for elderly, they aren't so lucky. In a matter of decades their work force is going to implode under the strain of an older population.

    I can see this as fallout (no pun intended) from WWII really. The US had a baby boom; Japan had to cope with assimilating, through occupation, a new culture. A culture that was somewhat incompatible with their social norms. Now birth rates are falling because what is left of their old culture in their personalities and sensibilities is grinding against their new culture's pace and density. Raising a family is "lame", so nobody is doing it. All this, of course, is gross over-generalization; take it with a giant grain of salt.

    If you ask my opinion though, now is the perfect time to start your own Japanese empire.
    1. Move to Japan
    2. Have like 12 kids
    3. Wait a couple generations
    4. ...
    5. Profit! (genetically speaking)
    Just make sure to save a couple of kids to care for you when you are old and infirm. I seriously doubt this robo-suit thing will pan out.
    • If you ask my opinion though, now is the perfect time to start your own Japanese empire.

      1. Move to Japan
      2. Have like 12 kids
      3. Wait a couple generations
      4. ...
      5. Profit! (genetically speaking)

      Just make sure to save a couple of kids to care for you when you are old and infirm. I seriously doubt this robo-suit thing will pan out.


      The problem is LI #1 - Move to Japan. The main reason we in the US won't have as much of a problem with aging boomers as Japan (who also had a post-WWII boom) i
  • 1. Can my grandad run linux?
    2. Can he run faster than I bike?
    3. What happens if the remote fails?
  • I don't know how many of you remember the episode of Southpark where Mr. (now MS) Garrison takes on the goddamned airline industry with his wizzy mono-wheel device that wisks mere humans along at >300mph. All I can say is as long as we potential cutomers don't end up having to use those "special controls" (large oral and anal inserts operated with a to and fro bobbing motion but that are totaly optional with the simple joystick thingie being obscured) then hey, it ain't all bad ;-)
  • by iamnot (849732) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @03:42AM (#13142825)
    The issue of muscle loss when using such a device could go either way - the ability to move around much more actively could actually stimulate muscles. Resistance could be fine-tuned so that the muscles gradually strengthen. Often, the reason old people become so weak is that they are afraid to do things, or at least do them actively (my own grandmothers are afraid to be outside) - so having a body suit would be amazing, if they actually leave the house!!
  • Shouldn't it give us some useful information (since this is for the elderly) like "allowed man who had been stuck in bed for 6 months due to the weakness of his muscles work in the kitchen and make himself breakfast?"

    What does it matter how much it can help a healthy person?
  • ...get me that suit! Oh, have security burn down that internet thingy, we don't want riff-raff beating us to the prize.
  • Seriously. Who wants to worry about pulling the holographic memory modules because their power armor is trying to kill them?
  • Best Headline Ever.
  • Power Assist Suit (Score:3, Informative)

    by pararox (706523) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @05:02AM (#13143006)
    I live in Chicago and just recently attended the Wired NextFest, where there was a demo for a "Power Assist Suite" (see a picture here: http://www.vcl.uh.edu/~pavlidis/nextfest/photos/Fi gure%2017.JPG [uh.edu]). It was cool in concept, but I was rather let down having seen the thing in action; it was extremely cumbersome and took a good ten minutes to prepare.

    The device here looks much more appropriate, while having many of the same features as the one presented at NextFest.
  • HAL? (Score:3, Funny)

    by ndogg (158021) <the.rhorn@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Saturday July 23, 2005 @05:10AM (#13143019) Homepage Journal
    I'm sorry Dave. You can't move that way. No, I'm serious Dave, your arthritis is getting worse, and you haven't taken your arthritis medicine yet today.
  • by pintomp3 (882811)
    maybe athletes can finally cut back on the steriods. i can see these kinda things becoming mainstream, at least in certain jobs. ups could raise the max weight on packages. moving to a new house would become much easier, you could just rent a few of these for you and u'r friends (no drunken battlebots plz). of course the military industry will be all over this. if enough ppl had it, other products would prolly change too. portable computers wouldn't need to be as lite. the human scale that you design around
  • Hell's Grannies (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nept (21497) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @05:46AM (#13143086) Journal
    Voice Over: What are they in it for, these old hoodlums, these layabouts in lace?

    First Granny: (voice over) Well it's something to do isn't it?

    Second Granny: (voice over) It's good fun.

    Third Granny: (voice over) It's like you know, well, innit, eh?

    Voice Over: Favourite targets for the old ladies are telephone kiosks.

    http://orangecow.org/pythonet/sketches/grannies.ht m [orangecow.org]

  • by Mal-2 (675116)
    Now grandma can push herself outside into the snow! [albinoblacksheep.com]

    Mal-2
  • by talaphid (702911) on Saturday July 23, 2005 @08:10AM (#13143362) Journal
    I, Grandpa

    The gripping anthology of questions posed in story format regarding the nature of octogenerianism in the face of the mechanical man: what does it truly mean to be Abraham Simpson? Similar to the Turing Problem, if you construct a black box where one inserts apple and receieve mush, at what point can one fool a double blind surveyor as to which is the machine-octogenarian and which is the Real McCoy.
  • Coming soon on a tv near you:

    Help!

    Help!

    I'm BSOD and can't get up!!!!

  • to weed out the one's who would tie themselves into a knot.
  • I can see the use of these things as part of physical therapy or for someone permanently disabled, but it's probably a mistake to use one just because you're getting old - it's a good bet that letting the machine do the work for your muscles will cause your muscles to atrophy even faster.
  • Possibly even ridiculous. It's a typical engineer's solution to a problem: something that will never work outside of a lab. To be a success, such a device has to be simple, affordable and reliable. I can't imagine this thing will be any of that: it won't be cheap, it's too complex and won't be reliable either. Maintenance will be expensive and I can't imagine any insurance company wanting to foot the bill.

    And what's going to happen when the thing does break down on someone who's old and feeble and pretty
  • The elderly loose motor skills along with strength. Augment them and you'll have a bunch of people blundering around breaking things...
  • ...for robot insurance?
  • assistive power armor for the elderly

    Wow, shades of Roujin Z [animefu.com] Just hope it doesn't develop a mind of its own... ;)

  • Almost there. I can just see Johnny being launched from space...
  • if they're still controlled via nerves, I'm not sure this would help me any. I've got SPMS (secondary progressive multiple sclerosis), and by no I've lost nearly all use of both legs, most use of one arm, and I'm losing the other arm, too.

    I still have muscles, and no issues with my joints. What's killing me is the de-myelination of my nerves. This, and the subsequent nerve tissue scarring ("sclerosis" in medispeak) means that signals just aren't getting to where they belong. Most signals just stop, tho
  • starship troopers. Only those guys had full body suits that looked like gorillas, could jump a few hundred meters into the air or even fly and carry anything up to nukes on their backs.
  • A lot of disabilities in the elderly are due to limitations in flexibilty due to pain or such, not really due to muscle weakness, right? So these things will not help every toddling old geezer, just a subset.
  • ...To see all the elderly-saving-the-day Hero tags on fark...

  • (As I'm relatively old) This brought up immediate memories of the training sections in Starship Trooper -the book, dude- and The Forever War. If memory serves both went into detail about the dangers of powered armor.

    I still want one. Especially if I can't have a flying car.
  • At age 90, in some suit like this, still kicking Alien's asses. Except, maybe we'll have actually found extra-terrestrial life by then..

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