Self-powered, controlled, and wearable exoskeletal devices.

An Ekso Bionics exoskeleton
Ekso Bionics / Flickr / Creative Commons

By definition, an exoskeleton is a skeleton on the outside of the body. One example of an exoskeleton is the hard outer covering that makes up the skeleton of many insects. However, today there is a new invention that claims the name of "exoskeleton". Exoskeletons for human performance augmentation is a new type of body army being developed for soldiers that will significantly increase their capacity.

An exoskeleton will allow you to carry more without feeling the weight, and move faster too.

History of Exoskeleton

General Electric developed the first exoskeleton device in the 1960s. Called the Hardiman, it was a hydraulic and electrical body suit, however, it was too heavy and bulky to be of military use. Currently, exoskeleton development is being done by DARPA under their Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation Program lead by Dr. John Main.

DARPA began phase I of the exoskeleton program in 2001. Phase I contractors included Sarcos Research Corporation, University of California, Berkeley, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. DARPA selected two contractors to enter the program’s second phase in 2003, Sarcos Research Corporation and the University of California, Berkeley. The program’s final phase, which began in 2004, is being conducted by the Sarcos Research Corporation and focuses on development of a fast-moving, heavily armored, high-power lower and upper body system.

Sarcos Research Corporation

The Sarcos exoskeleton being developed for DARPA utilizes a number of technological innovations, including.

  • A combustion-based driver to support advanced hydraulic actuators that produce robotic limb movements with very high strength, speed, bandwidth, and efficiency; and,
  • A control system that allows the operator to move naturally, unencumbered and without additional fatigue, while the exoskeleton carries the payload.

    Application-specific packages can be attached to the exoskeleton. These packages could include mission-specific supplies, protective outer coverings capable of operation in extreme threat and weather conditions, various electronic systems, weapons, or supplies and instrumentation for medical support and surveillance. The exoskeleton could also be used to move material in places inaccessible to vehicles, on board ships, and where forklifts are not available.