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Raytheon XOS 2: second generation exoskeleton

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September 28, 2010

Raytheon XOS 2: second generation exoskeleton

Raytheon XOS 2: second generation exoskeleton

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The widespread usage of exoskeletal robotics to augment human beings moved a step closer this week when Raytheon demonstrated its second generation Exoskeleton, the XOS 2. The new robotic suit (think of it as wearable robot guided by a human brain) is lighter, faster and stronger than the original proof-of-concept XOS 1, yet uses half the power. While Raytheon's development is primarily focused on military usage, exoskeletons for the mobility-impaired are already at market and industrial exoskeletons from Japan, Korea and Isreal are not far behind. One day in the not-too-distant future, one of these suits will enable us all to have superhuman strength, speed and endurance.

The XOS 2 enables its wearer to easily lift 200 pounds several hundred times without tiring and repeatedly punch through three inches of wood. Yet, the suit, which was developed for the U.S. Army, is also agile and graceful enough to let its wearer kick a soccer ball, punch a speed bag or climb stairs and ramps with ease.

The XOS 2 robotics suit is being designed to help with the many logistics challenges faced by the military both on and off the battlefield. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has long harboured a desire to extend the human capabilities of soldiers through wearable robot exoskeletons to create superhuman strength, speed and stamina.

DARPA's vision of the path forward for military exoskeleton development ten years ago

DARPA funded exoskeleton developments

A decade ago, DARPA funded a US$50 million project known as "Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation" which spawned a number of exoskeleton projects. The scope of the program included the development of actively controlled exoskeletons that not only increased strength and speed, but enable larger weapons to be carried, provided a higher level of protection from enemy fire or chemical attack, allowed wearers to stay active longer and carry more food, ammunition etc.

One of the most promising of the projects which emanated from the DARPA funding was the Wearable Energetically Autonomous Robot (WEAR) from SARCOS Research Corporation.

Slide from a SARCOS WEAR presentation about a decade ago

In 2007, SARCOS was purchased by Raytheon and WEAR became the basis for the initial proof-of-concept Raytheon XOS 1.

Most of the original participants in the DARPA funding have now dropped away for one reason or another, leaving only two bipedal exoskeletons in contention for United States military usage: Raytheon's XOS series and Lockheed Martin's HULC which had its origins in the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX) from UC Berkeley's Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory.

The technology was spun out into Berkeley Bionics which has now begun working with defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, culminating in the announcement of HULC in 2009.

Lockheed Martin's HULC

Earlier this year it was announced that HULC was to be updated to run on fuel-cell power. So clearly the race is hotting up, because Berkeley Bionics is getting set to unveil a new web site in just over a week from now, and with nine months development work on fuel cell power, Lockheed Martin's HULC will not have the limitations of tethering to contend with.

The Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle

The Springtail/XFV Exo-skeletor Flying Vehicle

One other noteworthy exoskeleton resulting from the DARPA funding was Millennium Jet's Solo Trek XFV (eXoskeletor Flying Vehicle) which promised vertical take-off and landing, a range of 125 miles, a cruising speed of 70 knots and the ability to hover dead still at any altitude up to a maximum of 8000 meters.

Delivery of a working unit for field testing by the US military was expected in late 2003 but it never quite met its schedules and has since morphed into the Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle, built by Trek Aerospace, which purchased the technology from Millenium Jet.

Clearly the advantages of the Springtail/XFV make it suitable for an array of potential non-military applications too, but the project is still a work-in-progress.

The Raytheon XOS 2 in detail

In a common manual labour task, such as lifting or carrying, Raytheon claims the XOS 2 suit would multiply the amount of work done by one person by between two and three times. Hence a human can do two or three times as much work, but with no extra effort – the robot is doing the heavy lifting, and is simply being directed by the human inside it. Given the high cost of human labour, and the potential for injury in such a physically stressful environment, the XOS 2 and similar powered exoskeleton devices are logical tools of industry.

Currently, the suit is tethered to its power supply, significantly limiting the potential for usage. Raytheon expects that the power consumption will need to reduce a further 60% from that of the XOS 2 for the suit to be viable in untethered form.

The XOS 2 is powered by an internal combustion engine and power to the “limbs” is by high-pressure hydraulics rather than electrics and high energy density lithium ion batteries because the production XOS will eventually see service on the battlefield and in the words of Dr. Fraser Smith, vice president of Operation for Raytheon Sarcos, "we believe they (lithium ion batteries ) are extremely dangerous. If one gets breached, it can explode and cause a fireball that's similar to a magnesium flare.”

Just when we're likely to see the EXO 2's successor in commercial readiness is a difficult question for Raytheon, as an exoskeleton has som many different potential uses, that it depends on the requirements of the user.

“If you think of an exoskeleton like a car, the combat variant needs to be built to handle rugged terrain, yet it has to still be agile and light, and it needs to operate on its own power. Think of a hybrid Land Rover”, said Smith.

Raytheon's XOS 2 empowers its user to punch through a block of wood

“The logistics variant is about amplifying brute force and enhancing a soldier's ability to lift and carry. It's more like a hard-working Ford truck. These are two very different missions, and right now different people want the exoskeleton to do different things.”

“In the nearer term we see the exoskeleton working on logistics applications where it can be tethered to an external power supply. With a tethered power source, you could likely see it within five years. For a suit that operates on its own power, it's probably more like a decade away.”

Hence the XOS is unlikely to see combat for some time, as the first XOS variant is focussed on assisting to overcome logistics challenges faced by the military.

According to Raytheon, logistic and support military personnel have to lift up to 16,000 pounds over the course of a typical day. With increasing pressure to reduce costs, the XOS suit's ability to enable one man to do the work of three is likely to be very enticing.

Have we missed your company?

If you have an exoskeleton under development, and you're not mentioned in this article, please email us with information and images and we'll update the article with your information.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
13 Comments

In 10 year´s time its probably not necessary to put a soldier in an exoskeleton because remotely controlled units will do the dirty work on the battlefield. A human or two in a hardened mobile environment at a safe distance controlling a bunch of these rcu´s will be the immensely versatile army/navy/air force of the future. The soldier of now will be managing a battle from a distance, through a highly digitalised interface.

bas
28th September, 2010 @ 03:56 pm PDT

DARPA? Isn't that the weapon research center?

Anyway; The troop looks like a sitting duck if you ask me...

The worst part is the part were the troop gets shot and he/she has to be transfered to the U.S. in order to get treatment. We all know how bad the U.S. health care system is...

That pooooooor soldier...

I bet DARPA will have invent immortal soldiers by the time the U.S. government decides it's time to fund their Health Care system effectively.

One thing I can be sure of:

War creates more problems than it solves.

Nitrozzy7
28th September, 2010 @ 04:08 pm PDT

Long before this type of technology gets introduced to actual battlefield conditions, you better believe the skeleton will be carrying advanced armor. That's the FIRST thing it will carry! As far as the American health care system is concerned, civilians have not experienced how bad things can get yet. Just wait till full implementation of Ob-care kicks into full swing. Then we will truly have the civilized world's worst system!! Designed to self-destruct! Talk about your "throw away" society!

Will, the tink
28th September, 2010 @ 07:05 pm PDT

Plus besoin de faire de la musculation à out trans! LOL

Facebook User
29th September, 2010 @ 08:19 am PDT

Develop this for warehousing and business use. Possible replacement for forklifts?

Bill Dimarelos
1st October, 2010 @ 04:30 am PDT

This is a wonderful step, and as we expect it would be used for war, they have the money. as for a 34 year old single father who has ddd (7 disks) and scaring up my spinal cord in the lumbar area. so as a "civi" and the suit it to powerful for us hairless apes who like to drink and fight(thank you btw)... i had more hope that i was worth more than a burning bag a garbage, its nice to know i wont get to play ball, bike ride, run, get a job. this was a hope for alot of us"undesirables" who could have been but alas we just are. i want to see the guy who cant walk run. and i dont care if i formated this wrong.

i can go on but the truth is nobody gives a #$^.

how mutch is it?

is it worth it?

will it cause more harm than good?

Terminal
8th March, 2011 @ 09:33 am PST

I enjoyed GizMag a lot more before I read any of the comments.

All of you clowns grinding political axes should go over to digg.com

If you have anything valid to say about the technology or its development and future, then make a comment. Don't fill the comment area with your political drivel.

flink
8th April, 2011 @ 11:46 am PDT

Read Waldo by Heinlein

Alix Paultre
11th April, 2011 @ 10:09 am PDT

If you don't have anything valid to post about the technology better not post it. Stop posting your political drivel!

Facebook User
16th April, 2011 @ 03:10 am PDT

This kind of tech truthfully scares the crap out of me (if it is used for the military). I believe that we already have enough people who want nothing more than to shoot and stab at each other. I believe that this will only elevate the conflict; what happens when you cannot kill the man in the suit. People will build stronger weapons and implement them on both the protected and unprotected soldiers. I see nothing bet bad coming from this being used in the military. Now I can see some useful applications outside the parameters of war, but we all know that will not happen.

Dmitri Cashman
21st June, 2011 @ 09:27 pm PDT

cant wait until the make a real terminator exoskeleton

Waiel Jibrail
24th July, 2011 @ 05:15 pm PDT

Imagine being in one, and the enemy hacks its software. Suddenly, you're frozen, or shooting your buddies, or running away, or removing your own head!

Oops!

Brian Hall
23rd March, 2012 @ 05:56 am PDT

I don't buy the part in the video where he breaks the board. I see his foot is back a little but there is no resistance at the moment he contacts the board and he is moving too slow for it to be momentum.

That said, all the human and political comments in Gizmag used to bother me too but just brace your self and get a dose of the human implications of technology, whether you agree or not. Gizmag offers a special place for that, I often don't like it but sometimes there is a gem.

The Hoff
15th July, 2012 @ 02:19 pm PDT
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