It may not be Iron Man, but it’s certainly a step in that direction. It’s known as the X1 Robotic Skeleton, a spinoff of their earlier Robonaut 2 project. Designed specifically to assists astronauts with either exercising in space, performing difficult tasks, or restoring movement to astronauts who have suffered from paralysis, the X1 is a big leap forward in terms of ergonomics and man-machine interface.
The exoskeleton is powered by four motorized joints and six passive joints, all of which give the 57 pound suit a good range of motion. When set to exercise mode, it provides resistance to the astronauts movement, ensuring that their muscles get the exercise they need while in zero-g environments. The rest of the time, the motors provide enough force to allow an astronaut to get a full range of motion and maintain full ambulatory capabilities.
A joint effort between NASA, The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, and the awesomely named Oceaneering Space Systems, the X1 is still deep in the research and development phase. Still, the suit could some day be used both in space and on Earth. In that respect, it is not unlike ReWalk and other robotic systems that are currently employed by the military which are used to help restore motion to the paralyzed and assist people in power lifting. Soon, the word “disability” will be entirely without meaning and “power lifters” will have to be redefined!
Check out this video of the X1 in action and/or click on the link below for more on this story.