There are now a number of powered exoskeletons either on the market or in development, all of which allow people who lack the use of their legs to walk in an upright position. The ReWalk
device is without doubt the best-known, having been commercially
available since 2012. This week, ReWalk Robotics announced the sixth
version of the product, which is reportedly better-fitting, faster and
less bulky than its predecessors.
Mention military exoskeletons
and it will likely conjure up visions of something like Iron Man, that
gives a soldier super strength or the ability to march all day with a
pack the size of a piano. However, exoskeletons can provide more than
brute strength. Taking a page from therapy exoskeletons,
Dan Baechle, a mechanical engineer at the US Army Research Laboratory
(ARL), is developing the MAXFAS exoskeleton that doesn't make soldiers
stronger, but better shots instead.
The development of powered exoskeletons has so far been largely restricted to the laboratory, the military, and areas such as rehabilitation therapy. This kind of technology also has obvious potential in industry, where constant heavy lifting is still very much a part of many working lives. Recently in Stuttgart, the Robo-Mate project unveiled an exoskeleton designed specifically for industrial use that can make 10 kilos feel like 1.
Until now, rehabilitation exoskeletons have generally been one-armed, and haven't been of much help in providing the sort of two-arm training that many patients need to recover coordination for carrying out daily tasks. Researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin have now developed Harmony, a two-armed, robotic exoskeleton that uses mechanical feedback and sensor data to provide therapy to patients with spinal and neurological injuries.
We might have started off in the water, but humans have evolved to be extremely efficient walkers, with a walk in the park being, well, a walk in the park. Human locomotion is so efficient that many wondered whether it was possible to reduce the energy cost of walking without the use of an external energy source. Now researchers at Carnegie Mellon and North Carolina State have provided an answer in the affirmative with the development of an unpowered ankle exoskeleton.
Being a nurse, construction worker, or grocery stocker is a taxing and potentially risky job. Claiming almost 10 percent of lost days of work in Germany are due to lower back problems, Fraunhofer researchers in conjunction with industry partners are developing CareJack, an orthopedic prosthetic embedded with flexible, smart electronics to ensure those lifting heavy loads don't have to go home early.
Scientists have created an exoskeleton without any electronic motors, heavy batteries and pneumatic actuators called the Sensorimotor Enhancing Suit (SEnS). The soft upper body vest is made out of flexible fabrics and enhances sensorimotor functions by reducing the load on muscles in the upper limbs.
Although 3D printing is revolutionizing prosthesis manufacturing
, enabling fast, accessible, low cost production, aesthetics is lagging behind. The Exo-Prosthetic leg could be an alternative to the traditional "robotic" prosthesis, using 3D scanning, modeling and printing technology to create a customizable titanium exoskeleton that replicates the exact form of the amputated limb.
What happens when you're immersed in a virtual world – such as a game – and you want to use your real-world fingers to control your virtual fingers in
that world? Well, we've already seen a number of sensor-equipped gloves
, but China's Dexta Robotics is taking what it claims is a more cost-effective approach. Its Dexmo is an exoskeleton for your hand, which can even provide the user with a limited sense of touch.
DARPA has awarded a first-phase US$2.9 million follow-on contract to the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University as part of its Warrior Web
program to create a soft exoskeleton. The Wyss Institute is studying the biometrics of walking as part of an effort to develop a soft fabric exoskeleton called the Soft Exosuit that uses robotics and biomimetics to augment the wearer’s musculoskeletal system as a way to reduce fatigue and injuries in soldiers and the disabled.