Ever wanted to become Iron Man? Here's some good news: Sarcos recently said that its second-generation exoskeleton robot suit, XOS 2, is now five years away from production. IEEE Spectrum contributor Susan Karlin writes :
The wearable robotics suit augments the operator's strength by using a system of high-pressure hydraulics, sensors, actuators, and controllers to bear the weight of an object, while leaving its wearer agile enough to kick a soccer ball. It's also lighter, stronger, and more environmentally resistant, and it uses half the power of the company's first exoskeleton, XOS 1, which rolled out in 2008. The XOS 2 has been nicknamed the Iron Man suit in homage to the high-tech power suit in the comics and movies.
We first wrote about the Sarcos exoskeleton more than five years ago, when it was just a prototype developed as part of a DARPA program. Since then, Sarcos, now a division of U.S. defense contractor Raytheon, has significantly improved the device. The XOS 2 exoskeleton is designed to lighten a soldier's load and help the military reduce injuries. It also lets you pretend you're Tony Stark:
Several other companies and universities are developing exoskeletons to help not just soldiers but also the elderly and other people who might need assistance to walk, climb stairs, and carry things around.
Most notably, Japanese firm Cyberdyne has created a robot suit called Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL, which is commercially available in Japan. Automaton writer Evan Ackerman tested the HAL system at CES in January, becoming the first man in the United States to try out the device.
Then there's U.C. Berkelely spinoff Berkeley Bionics, which last year introduced its eLEGS robotic exoskeleton , a very impressive system that is helping paraplegics to stand up and walk. The company is currently testing eLEGS with a select group of rehab centers, hoping to make it available for purchase in the next year or so.
Image and video: Raytheon
Erico Guizzo is the Director of Digital Innovation at IEEE Spectrum , and cofounder of the IEEE Robots Guide , an award-winning interactive site about robotics. He oversees the operation, integration, and new feature development for all digital properties and platforms, including the Spectrum website, newsletters, CMS, editorial workflow systems, and analytics and AI tools. An IEEE Member, he is an electrical engineer by training and has a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.