Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sarcos and Exoskeletons


Sup guyz, I found these two exoskeletons, one from Raytheon and the other from Berkeley
Bionics, anyone who had to walk for hours with a 100 lb backpack will instantly appreciate them.

Raytheon Company’s research facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, is developing a robotic suit for the
soldier of tomorrow. The exoskeleton is essentially a wearable robot that amplifies its wearer’s
strength, endurance and agility. Reminiscent of super heroes depicted in comic books and
Hollywood movies, the bleeding edge technology effectively blurs the lines between science
fiction and reality. So much so, that Popular Science magazine recently likened Raytheon’s
exoskeleton to the “Iron Man” depicted in the blockbuster movie of the same name.

Built from a combination of sensors, actuators and controllers, the futuristic suit enables a user
to easily carry a man on his back or lift 200 pounds several hundred times without tiring. Yet,
the suit, which is being developed for the U.S. Army, is also agile enough to let its wearer kick a
soccer ball, punch a speed bag, or climb stairs and ramps with ease.

Dr. Stephen Jacobsen leads this project and the Raytheon Sarcos team. He sees his work as a
combination of art, science, engineering and design. “People call it different things. Sometimes
they call it inventing, sometimes they call it engineering. Sometimes they call it being a mad
scientist. To us, it’s the process of getting together, understanding the problems, goals and then
designing something to satisfy the need.” Development of the exoskeleton has been underway
since 2000, when Jacobsen realized that if humans could work alongside robots, they should also
be able to work inside robots.

Exoskeleton test engineer Rex Jameson echoes his boss’ commitment and says he has one of the
best jobs in the company. “We get to write programs and we see them working on actual robots;
that’s very exciting. As far as software engineering goes, this job is about as good as it gets.”

Berkeley Bionics, designs and manufactures lower extremity exoskeletons to augment human
strength and endurance during locomotion. Berkeley Bionics exoskeletons increase wearer's
strength while decreasing their metabolic cost of walking. The company is also attacking the
technological barriers to a practical, affordable exoskeleton for civilian and medical applications,
particularly to assist patients with neurological or muscular mobility disorders. These powered
human exoskeletons would allow their wearers to walk upright without the strain and muscular
effort required by today's unpowered orthotic devices.


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