Robotic exoskeletons that artificially augment puny human muscles have been in development for years, but we're yet to see any of them really take off. Panasonic is still betting on its own solution, the Power Loader Light (yes, named after the one seen in the sci-fi film Aliens), which is being developed by Activelink, one of its subsidiaries. The company has made some modifications since its initial appearance in 2010 and is showing off how it works on video for the first time.
The suit's legs have motors at the hips, knees, and ankles that are controlled by signals sent by six-axis force sensors located in the sole of the shoes. With some practice, the joints are said to follow a person's natural movements, allowing the legs to take a load of up to 130 pounds (60 kg) off the operator's back. Some of the operator's weight is supported by the bike seat attached to the battery backpack.
Similar to Cyberdyne's HAL exoskeleton – another Japanese suit which owes its name to a classic sci-fi film – the Power Loader Light could see some real action at the clean-up of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. There it could carry the weight of equipment and radioactive shielding.
However, the Power Loader Light lacks the arms of its bigger brother, which allow the operator to carry up to 66 pounds (30 kg) in each hand without breaking a sweat. The company is currently looking into ways of miniaturizing the parts without sacrificing power.
You can see the original Power Loader and the new suit in action in the following video.
See the stories that matter in your inbox every morning