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Robotics The Military

Exoskeletons For Rent In Japan 226

destinyland writes "Cyberdyne has started renting their exoskeleton body suits in Japan. The mind-controlled wearable machine increases strength and endurance, and rents for $2,300 a month. (Sensors on the skin detect traces of nerve signals from the brain, synchronizing the power suit's movements with the user's own limbs.) New video shows the suits in use on the streets of Tokyo, and the concept may be catching on. DARPA now has a program called Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation 'to develop devices and machines that will increase the speed, strength and endurance of soldiers in combat environments.'"
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Exoskeletons For Rent In Japan

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:33AM (#29362565)

    How is this not a joke?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:42AM (#29362607)

    From TFA, the exoskeleton from the Japanese is being made to help the disabled and the immobile. The US exoskeleton? It's for the soldier of tomorrow.

    Interesting priorities, that tell a lot about each culture.

  • Cyberdyne? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HFShadow ( 530449 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:49AM (#29362641)
    Seriously? They named their company after the company in Terminator? I'm not sure if I'm amused or concerned.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:51AM (#29362661)

    I did not see anything in the video which could not be done by relying solely on your ordinary inner skeleton.

    So says the person whose ordinary inner skeleton (and the muscles surrounding it) obviously work without any problem. The disabled, those in rehabilitation, the elderly and infirm, I guess these people don't exist in your world *roll*

  • by kzieli ( 1355557 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:53AM (#29362667) Homepage
    I'd hate to see what one of those things can do (to the user) if the sensors malfunction. Lets hope that the joints are desgined to not have a larger range of motion then the human wearing them.
  • by Edmund Blackadder ( 559735 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:59AM (#29362689)

    Well, it would be great if these things help the disabled, but none of the people in the test were disabled. And the article did not say that these would help the disabled. In fact it said that the exo-skeleton "is not ready for grandma yet."

  • Re:Hrmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:07AM (#29362719)

    Yeah, just like tanks stop dead when they get wet.

  • by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:10AM (#29362733)

    Only if the things come with armor that can stop the bullets properly. So far exoskeletons seem to be mostly meant to augment strength and mobility, not armor so a bullet would do the same damage. There are a few places that could be hit and cripple in a way that the exoskeleton could compensate for but there are many more places that will leave you dead.

  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:24AM (#29362791) Journal
    It speaks heavily about their needs. Japan is very concerned about lack of youth. They are currently regressing in terms of population size (of Japanese; illegal aliens are an issue for them). OTH, America has spent TONS of money on it for moving things. Simply the last investment is via DOD contractors. But, there has been active research into this for several decades. And up until recent times, it was concerned mostly with hazardous waste and/or moving large material.

    Culture has NOTHING to do with this.
  • It is so wrong! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:25AM (#29362801) Journal

    I watched the video of the three people walking the streets with leg exoskeletons.

    Argh! It just abounds in wrongness! They are all in black, with white exoskeletons. There should be a red one, a blue one and a yellow one or some such! Don't these people watch Sentai shows?

  • Re:Muscle atrophy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:35AM (#29362853) Homepage

    That depends entirely on who will be using them. If those persons aren't able to move/exercise on their own then it's good, I'd take one of these over a wheelchair any day. If it's used for superhuman strength then I imagine it'll still take normal strength on the inside. But yeah, if you use it only for convienience and all the time then maybe. But that's really no different from a couch potato that barely gets his ass out to the car and back. In fact, I'm fairly sure that this motion will be more exercise than sitting in a car no matter what.

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:37AM (#29362859)

    Actually, outside of the espionage business, I'm not sure I can think of classified military tech that remained secret until obsolescence. Not saying it hasn't happened (we might never know after all), or that they don't do their best to keep stuff secret, but once the grunts get ahold of something, you can bet it'll become common knowledge very quickly.

    The stuff that does get kept secret is the stuff that never enters widespread use, or only requires the knowledge of a few highly placed people to deploy. Spy planes and satellites, failed prototypes, software, bioweapons, strategic command and communication systems - those can be hidden. Anything destined for the front lines can't stay secret for long.

    Of course, you could have meant the successful prototypes will remain hidden from the public, but you did say "until they're already obsolete", which suggests they've passed the prototype stage, entered production, and fallen behind the curve.

  • by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @04:00AM (#29362981)

    Cyberdyne = the fictional company that built Skynet in the Terminator movies
    HAL = the computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey"

    You're obviously not a science fiction geek ;-)

    And I'm surprised that a real company calls itself Cyberdyne and uses HAL as an acronym for a real product. While I appreciate the humor, most companies want reputable sounding rather than funny names. That way, Japanese Cyberdyne is a big exception.

  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @04:15AM (#29363065) Homepage Journal
    The disabled, those in rehabilitation, the elderly and infirm, I guess these people don't exist in your world *roll*

    My suspicion is that with common use of these exosceletons the percentages of groups that 'need' them will increase. The trend, of course, could be reversed if people took more care of the standard implementation of body functions. However, that would not create another growing revenue stream in the health care sector.

  • Re:Worth it? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @05:46AM (#29363463) Journal
    It is worth it for almost-paralyzed people who are sick of being stuck into their wheelchairs. Most of the old people unable to walk are not paralyzed but to weak to stand. In US they pray, in Japan they pay. Guess who gets to walk again ?

    Seriously, I could see me pay a lot of money to be able to walk in the latter years of my life.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @06:13AM (#29363587)

    The major limiting factor these days isn't the exoskeleton itself, which has been demonstrated to work.

    Isn't the major limiting factor money? Wasn't there an outcry that even US soldiers weren't issued bullet-proof vests due to financial restraints? How could they equip soldiers with these undoubtedly extremely expensive armored exoskeletons?

    Another restraint would be the lack of casualties. Nations running attack wars like the US NEED casualties to fuel patriotism. You cannot have your men too invincible. Military nations desperately need the occasional martyr hero to sustain public support. Not too many of course but a certain quota of casualties is essential.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:24AM (#29364155)

    Tells you more about how to get funding in each country, imho.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @09:34AM (#29364949)

    Could have something to do with Japan being barred from most military development after World War II.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @09:44AM (#29365055)

    I don't argue with your main point, but the exercise you mention to demonstrate it doesn't seem to work for me. What I experienced, the first time I tried it, was that my arms tended to drift outwards as you suggested, but that went away after a vigorous shoulder-shrug. To make sure this wasn't just a time-based fade (after observing the effect and shrugging, it was probably over 30 seconds since I left the doorway), I waited 5 minutes and tried it again.

    The second time, as soon as I stepped out, I swung my arms up overhead and back down once. Then relaxed, and (surprise!) no difference in loose arm position vs the resting case. My diagnosis of this is that the shoulder joint is displaced somewhat by the unusual reverse-cantilever loading, and pops back to center under normal usage. Since this is a geometric effect, it can't really be extrapolated to any other joints, and gives no insight into genuine muscle adaptation effects, which I'm sure do exist, and are a potential problem.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming