It was way back in July 2012 when DARPA (with long fascination of turning ordinary men into superhuman) awarded $2.6 million contract to Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering to develop an exoskeleton in order to enhance soldiers’ endurance. With backing from DARPA, the Institute has pulled off a smart robotic suit, which looks and works like one straight out of science fiction. Dubbed the Exosuit, the soft robotic exoskeleton is really lightweight and comfortable and can be easily worn like a pair of trousers. The Exosuit comprises of a harness that’s wired to a backpack to help the wearer lift really heavy loads.
What’s Exosuit about?
The idea of the project is to finally merge the prototype Exosuit with clothing, which will act as extra muscles to assist soldiers, athletes and people with muscle injuries and assist them in doing impossible tasks. The Exosuit exoskeleton for now is composed of specially designed fabrics that make it significantly lightweight, sans any ridged structure.
Weighing only 7.5 kilograms (without compressed air that drives artificial muscles), the exosuit relies on the movement of legs and adds the needed vital enhancement to move correctly. The suit has been tested in the Wyss lab – results show that it is difficult to adjust to the suit at first, but once user can adjust, the boost felt in movement is evident.
Exosuit has to be custom-fit to person’s gait and body frame first up (only one time thing), however, after that that person can wear the suit like ordinary clothing.
Not the first
Exosuit isn’t the first robotic exoskeleton we’ve seen for real, though it is perhaps the most comfortable. In the recent past we’ve seen the Indego exoskeleton and the Brain-controlled robotic exoskeleton, yet unlike these, the soft Exosuit will be more of an enhancer than a mere assistant.
Although large-scale manufacturing of the exosuit is years away, developers are focused on developing the soft suit in three main areas:
- To assist soldiers walk longer distances carrying heavier loads.
- To work as performance enhancing gear for athletes
- To assist people with muscle damage (incapable of walking) in their rehabilitation
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