The Future is Here: The Soft Robotic Exosuit

aliens_powerloaderRobotic exoskeletons have come a long way, and are even breaking the mold. When one utters the term, it tends to conjure up images of a heavy suit with a metal frame that bestows the wearer super-human strength – as exemplified by Daewoo’s robot worker suits. And whereas those are certainly making an impact, there is a burgeoning market for flexible exoskeletons that would assist with everyday living.

Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed just such a device, a flexible fabric exoskeleton that earned them a $2.9 million grant by DARPA to continue developing the technology. Unlike the traditional exoskeleton concept, Harvard’s so-called “Soft Exosuit” is not designed to give the wearer vastly increase lifting capacity.

Exosuit-640x353Instead, the Soft Exosuit works with the musculature to reduce injuries, improve stamina, and enhance balance even for those with weakened muscles. In some ways, this approach to wearable robotics is the opposite of past exoskeletons. Rather than the human working within the abilities and constraints of the exoskeleton, the exoskeleton works with the natural movements of the human wearer.

The big challenge of this concept is designing a wearable machine that doesn’t get in the way. In order to address this, the Wyss Institute researchers went beyond the usual network of fabric straps that hold the suit in place around the user’s limbs. In addition, they carefully studied the way people walk and determined which muscles would benefit from the added forces offered by the Exosuit.

softexosuitWith a better understanding of the biomechanics involved, the team decided to go with a network of cables to transmit forces to the joints. Batteries and motors are mounted at the waist to avoid having any rigid components interfering with natural joint movement. This allows the wearer the freedom to move without having to manually control how the forces are applied.

Basically, the wearer does not have to push on a joystick, pull against restraints, or stick to a certain pace when walking with the Exosuit. The machine is supposed to work with the wearer, not the other way around. The designers integrated a network of strain sensors throughout the straps that transmit data back to the on-board microcomputer to interpret and apply supportive force with the cables.

Warrior_Web_Boston_Dynamics_sentDARPA is funding this project as part of the Warrior Web program, which seeks to reduce musculoskeletal injuries for military personnel. However, Harvard expects this technology to be useful in civilian applications as well. Anyone who needs to walk for long periods of time at work could benefit from the Soft Exosuit, which is less expensive and more comfortable that conventional exosuits; and with a little rescaling, could even be worn under clothing.

But the greatest impact of the Soft Exosuit is likely to be for those who suffer from a physical impairment and/or injuries. Someone that has trouble standing or walking could possibly attain normal mobility with the aid of this wearable robot. And people working their way through physiotherapy would find it very useful in assisting them with restoring their muscles and joints to their usual strength.

exosuit_cyberdyneHALThe team plans to collaborate with clinical partners to create a version of the exosuit for just this purpose. What the Wyss Institute has demonstrated so far has just been the general proof-of-concept for the Soft Exosuit. In time, and with further refinements, we could see all sorts of versions becoming available – from the militarized to the medical, from mobility assistance for seniors, to even astronauts looking to prevent atrophy.

And as always, technology that is initially designed to assist and address mobility issues is likely to give way to enhancement and augmentation. It’s therefore not hard to imagine a future where soft robotic exosuits are produced for every possible use, including recreation and transhumanism. Hell, it may even be foreseeable that an endoskeleton will be possible in the not-too-distant future, something implantable that can do the same job but be permanent…

Cool and scary! And be sure to check out this video from the Wyss Institute being tested:

 

 


Source:
extremetech.com
, wyss.harvard.edu, darpa.mil

Blade Runner… Best Lines!

bladerunnerHello and welcome to another installment of best movie lines, part of my ongoing bit on movie reviews. Yes, there’s no shortage of great movie lines out there. And after going over the best ones from the Dune miniseries, I came to realize just how many other bits of classic movie dialogue there are that deserve recognition. I wasn’t sure where to begin, so I thought I’d backtrack a bit. First up, Blade Runner, since its smart, tight dialogue will probably yield the most nuggets. Here are the top ones I could remember, in rough, descending order:

Leon: I’ve never seen a turtle… But I understand what you mean.
Holden: You reach down and you flip the tortoise over on its back, Leon.
Leon: Do you make up these questions, Mr. Holden? Or do they write ’em down for you?
Holden: The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t. Not without your help. But you’re not helping.
Leon: What do you mean, I’m not helping?
Holden: I mean: you’re not helping! Why is that, Leon?

Holden: Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about… your mother.
Leon: My mother?
Holden: Yeah.
Leon: Let me tell you about my mother. (Shoots Holden)

Deckard: I was quit when I come in here, Bryant, I’m twice as quit now.
Bryant: Stop right where you are! You know the score, pal. You’re not cop, you’re little people!
Deckard: No choice, huh?
Bryant: No choice, pal

Rachael: May I ask you a personal question?
Deckard: Sure.
Rachael: Have you ever retired a human by mistake?
Deckard: No.
Rachael: But in your position, that is a risk.

Tyrell: Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called ‘blush response’, fluctuation of the pupil, involuntary dilation of the iris.
Deckard: We call it Voight-Kampff for short.
Tyrell: Demonstrate it. I want to see it work.
Deckard: Where’s the subject?
Tyrell: I want to see it work on a person. I want to see it work on a negative before I provide you with the positive.

Deckard: You’re reading a magazine. You come across a full-page nude photo of a girl.
Rachael: Is this testing whether I’m a Replicant or a lesbian, Mr. Deckard?

Deckard: Suspect? How can it not know what it is?
Tyrell: Commerce is our goal here at Tyrell. More human than human is our motto. Rachael is an experiment, nothing more. We began to recognize in them a strange obsession. After all they are emotionally inexperienced, with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we give them a past, we’d create a cushion, a pillow for their emotions and consequently we can control them better.
Deckard: Memories. You’re talking about memories.

Batty: Time… enough.

Batty: Did you get your precious photos?
Leon: … Someone was there.
Batty: Men?
Batty: POLICE men?

Leon: How old am I?
Deckard: I don’t know!
Leon: My birthday is April 10th, 2017. How long do I live?
Deckard: Four years.
Leon: More than you! Painful to live in fear, isn’t it? Wake up, time to die!

Tyrell: I’m surprised you didn’t come here sooner.
Batty: It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.
Tyrell: What could he do for you?
Batty: Can the maker repair what he makes?

Tyrell: What, what seems to be the problem?
Batty: Death.
Tyrell: Death? Well, I’m afraid that’s a little out of my jurisdiction.
Batty: I want more life, Father!
Tyrell: The facts of life. To make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life system is fatal. A coding sequence cannot be revised once it’s been established.

Tyrell: You were made as well as we could make you.
Batty: But not to last.
Tyrell: The life that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burnt so very very brightly, Roy. Look at you! You’re the prodigal son. You’re quite a prize.
Batty: I’ve done questionable things.
Tyrell: And also extraordinary things. Revel in your time!
Batty: Nothing the God of biomechanics wouldn’t let you in heaven for.

Batty: Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.

Batty: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in the rain. Time to die…

Gaff: It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?

The list has to end with Batty’s death speech and Gaff’s final words, regardless of their order. Those lines were just too strong not to end this list on them!