Panasonic Shows off New Assistive Robotic Exoskeletons

In a video released today, Panasonic has given us an idea of what our robot-assisted future may be like. The video showed off three different kinds of their Assist Robot technology, all of them robotic exoskeletons, but each possessing its own unique design for use in different types of task.

The first design on show is one for industrial use, sporting a rather striking purple and green colour scheme. This assistive suit’s main functionality is to aid industrial and factory workers who do a lot of heavy lifting and carrying, providing extra support for the wearer’s lower back, reducing strain by as much as 33 pounds. Next up is the leaner PLN-1, which has a more catchy moniker of “Ninja”, focusing on aiding the motions of walking and running. One of the main functions of this suit on show was to make hiking and climbing up steep trails far easier. Using sensors on the feet and motors on the back, it allows the wearer to walk more naturally on difficult terrain. Future versions of the Ninja aim to include an upper body component too, to assist in carrying.

Lastly, looking like it just fell out of Aliens is the Power Loader. While perhaps not built with the purpose of combating xenomorphs, the power loader is built for construction and disaster relief. Panasonic aims to decrease the unit’s massive weight before it is released, but there already plans for mass production. Another design under development with Panasonic include beds and wheelchairs to aid in nursing.

The time when these systems will be ubiquitous is still a long way off, but if they are already as impressive as those Panasonic have on show, it could be sooner than we think.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGmymin7d0o

Exoskeleton And Electricity Help Man Walk Again

Exoskeletons have long been a thing of fiction, with movies like Aliens showing us large mechs that could move crates and giant aliens with ease, but in recent years people have seen the technology become realistic and helpful, such as homemade exo’s making lifting weights easy or even the army developing exo’s to improve shooting. Now with a little help from electricity they could soon be developing something close to a miracle, letting people walk again.

Mark Pollok was paralyzed from the waist down in 2010, with no control of his lower body he began testing out Ekso Bionics Exoskeleton. While an exoskeleton could give people back control of their body they have displayed even greater results by using a process known as “transcutaneous spinal cord stimulation”. This means that by attaching electrodes to Mark’s skin they were able to send jolts of electric to his spine.
All communication in the body is electric charges and by using this process they were able to see results. During the experiment, Mark was able to regain some control over his legs, to the point where he could raise and flex his knees.

Combining these two processes they were able to give Mark some ability to walk again, he was even able to sweat (something that he has been unable to do since the accident in 2010).

Technology can do many things, but sometimes it’s giving people the chance to do what we call simple that makes it amazing.

Thank you Washington Post for the information.

Image courtesy of the Guardian and Mark Pollok.

US Army Developing Robotic Exoskeletons?

Whenever I hear a new piece of tech which is being developed with the aim of blurring the lines of real life and science fiction, I am curious, but it’s then sometimes followed by a groan when you realize it’s for the purposes of war, destruction and general super power posturing. A new Robotic Exoskeleton is being developed by yes the US army to assist in the training of soldiers and their shooting accuracy.

A gentleman by the name of Dan Baechle who is a mechanical engineer is testing MAXFAS, a mechatronic arm exoskeleton at the Army Research Laboratory in the United States. As you can see by the image below, this device contains a motor for the MAXFAS cable which is driven behind the wearer. This in turn pulls the cables that are attached to arm braces; the effect of this would be similar to a puppeteer who pulls strings to make certain objects move. The braces are constructed from carbon fibre; this is useful because it adds very little weight to the arm. Always amuses me when you’re handling a potentially lethal object but always remember to wear goggles.

By having sensors placed onto the braces it feels and corrects any shaking in the arm by sending signals to the motors. By doing this, the arm would be able to focus without the slightest of human tremors and therefore improves shooting accuracy at a faster rate, which is fantastic for the shooter, perhaps not so much for the target.

This design has the potential to be implemented outside of military circles, for example, if an individual has Parkinson’s disease and has a constant tremor, this might be able to help manage this. I also feel that perhaps the US government should lend its researchers and dev team to produce cutting edge tech with the aim of assisting the general public, after all, finances should be allocated for not only war but peace.

Thank You army.mil for providing us with this information

Army Exoskeleton Makes Gunshots More Accurate

The US Army has developed a revolutionary new exoskeleton that improves a soldier’s aim with a gun. The Mobile Arm Exoskeleton for Firearm Aim Stabilization (MAXFAS) automatically steadies a soldier’s gun arm, cancelling out trembling without locking the limb, leaving it free to point at other targets at will.

“Army soldiers have to be able to hit a target at over 300 yards away,” Daniel Baechle, co-creator of MAXFAS and mechanical engineer for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland, said. “That’s more than three football fields put end-to-end. Prior to basic training, many soldiers have never tried to hit a target that far away.”

“Using the Army standard M16 rifle, moving the muzzle by just one-sixteenth of an inch will result in the shot being off target by more than 17 inches at 300 yards away,” Baechele explains. “So even small tremors can result in huge aiming errors.”

Early studies on soldiers using MAXFAS show a shooting accuracy improvement of up to 27%, and Baechele hopes to improve the technology even further.

“The far-future concept I envision is that MAXFAS could become an untethered device, perhaps with motors, power supply, and control computer all in a backpack,” he predicts. “MAXFAS could then be worn on the battlefield to improve soldier aim. Alternatively, the tremor-damping algorithms could be incorporated into an existing or future exoskeleton.”

Couple MAXFAS with the recently-developed smart bullets and the US could be building the next generation of super soldiers.

Thank you Popular Science for providing us with this information.

New Exoskeleton Boots Make You More Efficient

Walking with a spring in your step, something that is about to become a very literal thing. The new exoskeleton technology doesn’t need advanced robotics or a medical procedure to enjoy its benefits. It slips on like a boot, uses your own muscle power to operate and can make walking a whole lot easier.

Engineers at Carnegie Mellon University created the effort-reducing ankle exoskeleton. The walking assist clutch operates a spring in parallel to your Achilles tendon, which in turn offloads strain on the calf muscles and makes walking easier. This can help people walk further and longer, but could also help people who have difficulty in moving, or existing medical conditions that require you to reduce the strain on your legs.

“I’ll tell you, it feels really cool,” Sawicki said. “There’s a comfortable sort of squishiness for the first 10 minutes. But then it becomes totally transparent. Your body just integrates it.”

It’s still in the prototype stage, but the inexpensive solution is still very cool and one we look forward to seeing developed further.

“When you take it off, you’re like, ‘oh, crap,'” Sawicki said. “You don’t realize how much it helped until it’s gone. You feel really clunky for a few minutes.”

Thank you Washington Post for providing us with this information.

 

Soft Exo-Suit Boosts Strength Without Motors

Artificial exoskeletons and exo-suits have been shown to increase the strength, speed, and endurance of humans, usually with the help of tough frames, motors, and electronics. Now, researchers at the Hiroshima University in Japan have developed a soft-body exo-suit that can boost upper body strength in the wearer, without mechanics.

The SEnS (Sensorimotor Enhancing Suit) is constructed from a fabric mesh that mimics the structure of human muscle tissue. An understanding as to how the human body handles heavy loads means the suit can help maximise muscle pull while reducing the amount of voluntary muscle function necessary to lift a heavy item.

The prototype SEnS fits over a single arm – the right arm, since it’s the most common dextrous limb – is lightweight, and allows a vast range of movement. Because it is not motorised, nor has a strong frame, it will never be able to cope with huge loads, but could reduce the exertion level of workers lifting and carrying normal loads, resulting in greater efficiency, increased frequency, and reduction of lift-related injury.

Source: Gizmodo

Big Weights are No Problem for Homemade Exoskeleton

Who’s going to be the first to develop our next supersoldier? We’re not talking Captain America genetics or Robocop structure here, just strapping your average joe G.I into an exoskeleton and putting him to work – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare style. America are often rumored to have things like this in the planning, we know China has the funding and the brains to carry it out.

Or maybe James Hobson, aka The Hacksmith, it the man we both need and deserve. Thie backyard bandit has developed his own personal exoskeleton by using simple household items like paper clips and rubber bands.

Ok we might be overstating it here, he’s not quite MacGyver, but either way we’re certainly impressed with his efforts.

Hobson’s exoskeleton has been filmed helping him lift 171.5 pounds (78kg) of cinder blocks without raising a sweat. Apparently a compressor upgrade could see him lifting much more as the current setup is running at half pressure.

If you’re interested to see exactly how it was designed, Hobson provides a work log guide to his upper-body creation. In saying this, there’s nothing strapped to his legs as of yet, so we’re hoping he gets some extra support before trying to lift something double the weight or more.

For all the fun, look no further than the video below.

[youtube width=”640″ height=”480″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQsAHhRxwvw[/youtube]

Image courtesy of The Hacksmith

Ship Builders Testing Exoskeletons, Can Help You Lift 100KG With Ease

Last year in South Korea, ship building workers were wearing robotic exoskeletons, allowing them to walk around with huge sections of metal, pipe work and other objects weighing around 100KG as if they were light as a feather!

The test was operated by one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering at their Okpo-dong facility. The early prototypes proved successful, but the team are now working to improve the exoskeletons for deployment to the general workforce.

The current model will fit anyone between 160 and 185cm tall, and it’s 28 GK frame is constructed from carbon, aluminium alloy and steel, but despite it’s bulky weight, it manages to feel weightless thanks to it’s build-in balancing and lifting systems that carry its own weight for you, allowing you to move freely, or at least until its 3 hour battery life is depleted, in which case you can simply climb out of the suit.

The design is modular too, it can be fitted with a small crane, tools and other equipment to help the worker perform tasks. Worker feedback has been positive so far as it speeds up productivity without causing them strain from lifting, their only gripe is that they now want faster and stronger units, something the team are already busy developing.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen manufacturing modifying humans to help with construction, such as the 3D printed thumb attachments used by BMW, although mech suits are waaaay cooler than what the Germans are using right now.

Thank you NewScientist for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of NewScientist.

Soldiers Running 4 Minute Miles Thanks to DARPA’s Exoskeleton

Sounds like something out of a video game right!? This is an exoskeleton and by now you all must of heard about them. They are lightweight frames that are designed to support soldiers carrying heavy loads of 100lbs or more, as tough as soldiers are 100lbs is still 100lbs and that will drain the soldiers energy very quickly. This is where the exoskeleton comes in. The exoskeleton that’s being developed by DARPA can help soldiers run a mile in just 4 minutes whilst carrying all their kit, amazing right? The exoskeleton supports the joints and muscles in the most demanding areas such as Knees, hips, arms and legs. This enables the soldier to move faster, be stronger and carry more kit without suffering. The exoskeleton is also designed to recognize when a part of the body is injured, for example, Soldier falls and badly hurts their knee, the exoskeleton would recognize this and apply extra support to that area enabling the soldier to continue like nothing happened. Obviously if they broke a leg or something then this wouldn’t mask it entirely but could still enable them to walk to, all be it painfully, the nearest place that offers medical treatment.

One of DARPA’s loftier goals for this project is to provide enough supplementary muscle power to soldiers that they can easily run a four-minute mile. The suit should be compatible with approximately 90 percent of wearers, both male and female. Using just 100W of power from a small battery, the entire setup should be light enough that soldiers will hardly realize they are wearing it. The only difference will be that they will be able to move faster, stronger and with less fatigue than they could without the suit.

 

The technology could be used outside of the battlefield as well, of course, to support firefighters and police, or even to help injured veterans regain some of their lost mobility. Check out the video of it in action below.

[youtube width=”640″ height=”340″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3Gz2yu5jUs[/youtube]

Thanks to Gajits for supplying us with this information.

Images courtesy of Gajits.