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The Next Big Business Could Be Commercial Exoskeletons

By Tom Z

3:31 PM EDT, March 21, 2013

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Anyone who’s seen Forrest Gump knows that humans have been capable of exoskeleton technology for quite some time.  Of course the equipment wasn’t very good; it still took an iron will and a girl with AIDS screaming your name to give you superhuman ability.  Now it appears that several major companies, for example Lockheed Martin, are interested in building durable, lightweight, 21st Century exoskeletons for commercial sale.  These exoskeletons will primarily be designed for people who have been injured, but hey, if you’re a white guy who has always wanted to dunk, and you have $70K lying around, nothing’s stopping you from getting your own Iron Man suit.  From Slate:

Using technology licensed from Ekso, Lockheed is working on a device called the HULC—the Human Universal Load Carrier—that would allow soldiers to tote 200 pounds for hours without tiring. Unlike the Ekso, the HULC won’t take your steps for you. Instead, it uses accelerometers and pressure sensors to read your intentions, then provides a mechanical assist, like a power steering system for your legs.

In Italy, researchers have built a “body extender” robot aimed at allowing rescue workers to lift a wall from an earthquake survivor. Engineering students at Utah State concocted a vacuum-powered “Spider-Man suit” with which a soldier could scale the sheer side of a building.


This is only semi-related, but I find it comical how quickly Oscar Pistorius changed his tune about his personal limitations after being accused of murder.  Throughout the Olympics he kept saying how he never felt handicapped, how he was capable of achieving anything, how he was no different than anyone else in the world.  Then as soon as he’s arrested for murder his entire defense is basically, “I couldn’t have shot her…  I don’t even have legs!”  I guess what I’m saying is, this exoskeleton sounds great, until you accidentally trip and fall through a glass-bottom boat.  Then you’ll wish you were soft and pudgy like everyone else.

 

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