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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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  • Muscle atrophy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:43AM (#29362613) Homepage Journal
    I wonder what the long term consequences are of wearing one of these things all the time. As it is we're lazy. Now we don't even have to use our own muscles?
  • I doubt the title (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dword ( 735428 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:47AM (#29362633)

    The title of the original article says that these exoskeletons may soon become like bicycles. I doubt that and I'm sure that most governments will outlaw them. Whoever wears them could pose a serious threat to the people around him/her and why would anyone wear one for show if not for work (like construction) or fighting (which is illegal) ?

  • Re:Muscle atrophy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by boliboboli ( 1447659 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:33AM (#29362841)
    As someone who is ~30 and has 5 surgeries to date on my right knee, I'd prefer the consequences(muscle atrophy) of using using something like this to supplement my existing leg as opposed to a knee replacement. My point is, there are reasons other than laziness that some people may get excited about this technology(disabilities). Even wearing an acl brace, I can barely walk after a scrimmage with my nephew's or son's soccer team that I coach; an exoskeleton leg could keep me doing what I love for a long time w/o pain and disability.
  • Re:Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tygerstripes ( 832644 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @04:12AM (#29363045)

    You, sir, win a million points for insight. Minus one for saying it has nothing to do with culture though.

    Publicly, it is very important to Japan that their innovations and applications are seen as being civil rather than military, for political and cultural reasons going back decades.

  • by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @04:46AM (#29363199)

    I've posted a few times in this thread in an entirely joking manner, but something I couldn't quite put my finger on has been bothering me about this whole thing. It finally struck me.

    I occasionally do a little demonstration to show how the body responds to certain stimuli. You can try it yourself. Stand in a doorway, place the outside of your wrists against the sides of the doorjamb (the door has to be open, idiot), and apply steady, yet heavy pressure outwards with both arms, as if you are trying to do a jumping-jack, but the doorjamb is preventing your arms from going all the way up. Push hard. Hold it, still applying outward pressure, for a count of 60 seconds, then step out of the doorway and just relax, with your arms hanging at your sides. Weird, huh?

    Your arms will almost immediately begin raising back into the previous position, outwards, without any intentional effort, almost as if you are in a zero-G environment.

    Astronauts experience the exact opposite of this. They do not require much effort to move around, so that when they are suddenly back on Earth, it is very difficult for them to move around. I am not talking about muscle atrophy. That takes much longer to happen. As the previous exercise demonstrates, it takes a mere 60 seconds to condition the body to changes in the environment, yet it takes just as long for it to re-adapt.

    Now imagine a soldier in the field. Blastin' away, running hither and yon, jumpin' jack flash, for hours on end, his movements amplified by this crazy borg suit. Suddenly he takes a hit in the powerpack, or it just runs outta juice in the middle of a fire-fight. So what does he do? He takes the fucking thing off, otherwise he is a deadman (or simply laying there like one).

    Here is the problem. He is so conditioned to the suit, now it is off, it takes a long time to readjust. He is STILL a sitting duck, blundering around like a 40oz drunk because his muscles/brain are still expecting the suit to be doing most of the work.

    This is a bad scenario. He is the Terminator while the battery lasts, and Erkle-the-Wonder-Geek with no body armor when it goes dead.

    I think I'd rather hump the 80lb pack around and be able to dump it (and float like a butterfly) when the shit really hit the fan.

  • by mach1980 ( 1114097 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @04:56AM (#29363255)
    How about not making the feedback linear? I.e let the soldier hold 80% of the weight for small loads and 20% for heavier loads.
    Sure it would make it more difficult to differentiate the real mass of things you lift but its a small price compared to the problem you described.
  • Starship Troopers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elFisico ( 877213 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @06:19AM (#29363611)

    I'd recommend reading "Starship Troopers" by Robert Heinlein, which covers some interesting problems regarding exoskeletons used in combat. The solution of course is to not amplify the soldiers strength unless needed. The suit should simply move with the body in normal situations and only ampify in extreme situations, when the soldier exerts extreme force.

  • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @07:00AM (#29363769)

    Not to put too much emphasis on this failing, but I can easily carry 2 50 pound bags of rice and do squats and I'm not even considered strong. My buddy could quite easily carry 4 and do squats and walk around. Having one person who can and one who can't doesn't really prove the suit is doing the "heavy lifting" portion of that task.

    I'm sure it's significantly augmenting the lifting, but it doesn't really prove anything about able-bodied versus disabled. Someone who can walk but can only walk short distances will probably benefit from this, but I doubt it's at a stage (yet) to help someone get up out of a wheelchair. The suit uses sensors that trigger based on electrical signals from the brain to the muscles. For most people who are truly handicapped, the signals don't get there, which is the source of their handicap. Until it reads the brain impulse at the source, instead of at the destination, it won't help truly handicapped people.

  • Re:Not really (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @10:29AM (#29365703) Journal
    That is not entirely accurate either. An old roommate of mine, Yosuke explained that the gov. actually funds lots of projects that are dual use. His dad was high up in MITI, so he had some good knowledge. They simply fund it from the civilian side of things. But in general, they preferred items that were dual use. Partially for their own military needs, but also because they wanted to work closely with America (and sell it to us). The admin would have quietly looked at this for military purposes.

    As to the new admin, I have ZERO clue about them. It will be interesting to see If they jump into the coming Asian fortress lock, stock, and barrel. If they do, and slowly walk away from the west, they will likely have to increase their own military. America was a known and that we would not interfere in their in politics (after WWII, that is) or their culture. More importantly, we were their to protect their country. Not sure that we will do the same now.

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev