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DARPA Making ExoSkeletons #WearableWednesday

DARPA Knee

DARPA is working on exoskeleton uniforms under its Warrior Web program according to FedTech Magazine. Although the uniforms resemble something IronMan might wear, the goal is to help the military move safely while weighted down with equipment. Apparently a large reason for military discharge is musculoskeletal injury, so these suits are going to troubleshoot tough areas like hips, knees,  and lower back.

DARPA teamed with scientists from the Army Research Laboratory Human Research and Engineering Directorate to test nine prototype Warrior Web systems on soldiers during the first phase of the program, according to a May 5 news release. The first phase of testing is focused on technologies that can augment soldiers’ muscle work and increase their capabilities. The research team will address five key areas, including core injury mitigation and adaptive sensing and control.

Check out this video showing their multicamera motion tracking system from last year — this soldier is carrying only about half the weight usually called for in a mission.

It looks like there are plans to ramp up testing, according to Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, former Warrior Web program manager.

“Thirty months from today, we will outfit a squad with our suits and we will compete against a squad without them in activities such as the 12-mile rucksack march, marksmanship and the obstacle course. Our vision is to significantly reduce the time it takes to do a rucksack march and then when you get onto the marksmanship course, you’re almost as fresh as if you hadn’t marched at all.”

Although these suits are obviously for the military, they certainly can have other uses, especially when dealing with people with injuries or missing limbs. Perhaps in the future we will see older people putting on exoskeletons to mow their lawn or to accomplish other tasks that require strength.  Maybe children will learn to walk with the help of exoskeletons. It seems like robotics is not just for mechanized beings, it’s going to transform us as well.


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