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Exoskeleton Systems For Military and Civil Uses

Triton

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"U.S. Military Turns to Hollywood to Outfit the Soldier of the Future"
Designer of 'Iron Man' Suit Among Those Working on High-Tech Gear for Elite Troops

by Dion Nissenbaum

Source:
http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-military-turns-to-hollywood-to-outfit-the-soldier-of-the-future-1404527893

SAN FERNANDO, Calif.—The Oscar-nominated designers at Legacy Effects have outfitted such memorable movie warriors as The Terminator, RoboCop, Captain America and Iron Man.

The special-effects company is now at work on what seems a mission impossible: Building an Iron Man-style suit to protect and propel elite U.S. troops by encasing them in body armor equipped with an agile exoskeleton to enable troops to carry hundreds of pounds of gear.

The 3-D printers that once churned out parts for actor Robert Downey Jr.'s red and gold movie armor are making pieces for a Pentagon prototype. Military officials recently examined three designs, an early step in a project by the U.S. Special Operations Command to create a new generation of protective armor within the next four years.

"We are trying to be revolutionary," said Mike Fieldson, the military's manager of the project known as TALOS, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit.

Joining the quest is a far-flung team of bioengineers, combat veterans, tech experts and a Canadian researcher seeking solutions from the secrets of insect armor. The companies include prop makers, small tech firms and such defense titans as Raytheon Co. RTN +0.81% , Lockheed Martin Corp. LMT +0.58% and General Dynamics. GD +0.45%

The suit could change the way the U.S. military fights wars. For years, American forces have worked to shed pounds from the load they carried through the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan—more than 125 pounds on some missions, including weapons, electronics and body armor.

Developers of the Iron Man suit say it could weigh as much as 400 pounds, requiring a powered exoskeleton to move the armored troops with speed and agility. The problem is existing exoskeletons can't do the job.

"Hollywood has definitely made the Iron Man suit impossibly thin, impossibly light, impossibly agile and impossibly energy efficient," said Russ Angold, co-founder of Ekso Bionics, a Richmond, Calif., company that primarily designs exoskeletons for medical use. "So we're really trying to solve the problem and ask the question: What would Iron Man look like if it was real?"

This isn't the Pentagon's first crack at a futuristic combat suit. The military has spent tens of millions of dollars over the years on prototypes that didn't work as planned. Past failings have raised concerns among lawmakers about the year-old initiative.

Special Operations Command has so far spent about $10 million. Since it isn't an official Pentagon program, there is no fixed budget. That worries some lawmakers, and the House Armed Services Committee recently asked for a briefing to make sure the project doesn't waste money.

"You can see the long-term vision but, for now, much of it remains in the realm of science fiction and entertainment," said Peter Singer, a senior fellow with the New America Foundation's Future of War project. "There's a long way to go, but the technical barriers are not insurmountable."

One of the biggest hurdles is power. Iron Man's fictional defense contractor Tony Stark developed the mini "arc reactor"—worn in his chest—to power the suit. There is no real-world equivalent, and project developers joke about it.

"Iron Man got it right: It's all about the arc reactor," Mr. Angold said. "If someone can come up with that it would be fantastic."

Mr. Angold and his team work in a converted red brick Ford Motor Co. factory that made tanks during World War II. The office has the feel of a tech startup, with high ceilings, open workspaces and a pool table. Bulky exoskeletons designed in partnership with Lockheed Martin hang on a rack, next to cardboard boxes of junked knee braces, helmets, shoulder pads, boots and hinges from early Iron Man suit designs.

Pentagon researchers estimate they need 365 pounds of batteries to power the kind of suit developers have in mind. Researchers are looking at a small engine, designed for drones, as a substitute.

The vexing power problem has prompted the military to ask a Canadian researcher to develop an unpowered exoskeleton alternative. To help solve the dilemma, the Canadian team is studying sumo wrestlers to figure out how 600-pound men can move so deftly.

"This is a new frontier," said Alain Bujold, founder of Mawashi Protective Clothing Inc., a Quebec company that has developed exoskeletons and protective suits by studying creatures with hard shells—insects, lobsters and armadillos.

If developers can build a functional suit, it will "change the way that the operator does business—and probably not in a small way," said one member of U.S. Special Operations Command involved in the program.

The prototypes are designed for three members of Special Operations Forces who are taking part in the testing. The teams have taken computerized body scans and developed mannequins of the men to tailor the suits.

"If we don't do something to help our soldiers they are going to continue to break," said David Audet, an Army official who has spent years overseeing innovative technology programs at the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center in Massachusetts. "We're asking them to carry loads that are just absurd."

In May, Mr. Audet traveled to a small Vermont dairy farm to meet Iron Man suit developers as they put one of the early designs through its paces at a rudimentary shooting range set up away from the milking barns.

The daylong tests offered a sobering check. A U.S. soldier trying out the suit had trouble running, diving and shooting with the metal exoskeleton strapped to his legs. And that was before he added the cooling system and other advanced components still to come.

"Will you ever have an Iron Man? I don't know," said Brian Dowling, a former Green Beret overseeing the project for Revision Military in Vermont. "But you'll have some greatly improved technology along the way."

Developers working on new suits for U.S. troops have studied Hollywood creations, along with Medieval armor, above. Chelsea Hamashin/U.S. Special Operations Command

The tipping point for the development program came in December 2012, officials said, when members of the SEAL Team Six converged on a compound in eastern Afghanistan to free a Colorado doctor held hostage by militants.

As commandos stormed the compound, and freed the doctor, one SEAL was shot and killed. Afterward, Adm. William McRaven, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command who oversaw the SEAL Team Six raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, decided his forces needed better protection.

"It was one of those incidents where we stepped back and asked, 'What's our long-term vision?' " said James "Hondo" Geurts, the Pentagon official who oversees acquisition programs for Adm. McRaven. "We've done about all we can with our current approach. Is it time to take a bold leap ahead?"

The military has embraced the superhero imagery in its pursuit of the Iron Man suit. The first video to promote the program showed bullets bouncing off an animated Iron Man soldier as he burst through a locked door.

President Barack Obama even invoked the movie hero to a White House audience in February. "I am here to announce that we are building Iron Man," Mr. Obama joked, while promoting innovative technology programs. "This has been a secret project we've been working on for a long time. Not really. Maybe. It's classified."

As the project advanced, Mr. Angold invited the people who made the original Iron Man suits to join. If Legacy could design functional suits for the movies, he figured, maybe they could do it for the military.

"When you're doing something for a movie it is all make-believe," said Lindsay MacGowan, one of Legacy Effects' founders. Computer-generated special effects take care of the suit's imagined technology, like flying, for instance. "Whereas, for the military," he said, "that's really not going to be the case."

In early May, as the deadline for the first prototypes neared, the U.S. Special Operations Command took over a private warehouse on the edge of a St. Petersburg lagoon, not far from the command's Tampa headquarters. The walls are covered with inspirational storyboard illustrations of soldiers diving from planes in winged suits.

U.S. Special Operations Command is trying to fast-track development by sidestepping traditional contracting rules that can bog down projects in years of proposals, testing and evaluation. They have filled the warehouse with scores of developers divided into teams.

Prop makers use foam helmets and chest plates to test suit designs to see what works. A team led by a onetime Houston Astros player, Brad Chedister, is analyzing the widely criticized Under Armour body suit designed for U.S. Olympic speed skaters for its insulating properties. Another group is seeing if the drone engine can really power a commando in a heavy, armored suit.

One researcher, whose pastime is Renaissance-era sword fights, donated medieval suits of armor for developers to study.

The prototype suits are unlikely to look as good as anything on the big screen, designers say.

"This one won't be flying anytime soon, and it won't be red or gold, but it will be something that is in the history books," Mr. MacGowan said.
 

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muttbutt

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muttbutt said:
This is the Franco-Swiss RB-3D lower body exo skeleton mounted with ballistic armour etc at this year Eurosatory mil expo

Looks awkward as hell :eek:
video of it "in action"....

http://youtu.be/ZKcjM0bMOZg
 

bobbymike

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muttbutt said:
muttbutt said:
This is the Franco-Swiss RB-3D lower body exo skeleton mounted with ballistic armour etc at this year Eurosatory mil expo

Looks awkward as hell :eek:
video of it "in action"....
Until they mount a Dillon Aero minigun I'm not interested ;D

http://www.special-ops.org/heads-up-at-natick-for-better-helmets/
 

lastdingo

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Triton said:
About those photos of helmets:

A German experimental archaelogist has done experiments with recovered Roman face masks.
They were made for looks, but turned out to offer significant protection as well.

The eye openings were tiny, but unlike many medieval helmets with tiny vision slits these ancient masks were fitting tight and had the slits close to the eyes. The field of view was actually satisfactory.


So IF almost no transparent material shall be used for a face mask, the way to go in regard to field of view is to make the vision ports very close to the eyes.
Those photos show helmets which violate this basic, geometry-driven, rule.
 

Dragon029

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The problem with that however is that you run into 2 issues:

1. Helmets are not rigidly attached to the head, and so impacts could mean damaging the eyes (by having the visor move back into the eyes).

2. To have the helmet still accommodate the nose, jaw and ears, as well as systems like hearing protection, cooling, telephony, vision augmentation systems, etc you would need to make the eyes a local minimum, or effectively, bullet traps.
 

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Israeli ground forces are getting more help from above. First it was UAS and now the idea is to equip almost every fighter with a personal hovering system.

Rafael has unveiled a small tactical intelligence gathering hovering system. The plan is to equip many of the soldiers in an infantry unit with the micro hovering system that will serve as “eyes over the hill”. The “Maoz” is carried in a small canister stowed in the personal gear of an infantry soldier. After mission completion it can be returned to the canister for further use.

Rafael sources say that a soldier can carry a number of these hovering systems in his personal gear , together with a small control unit. The company says that the operation is very easy and according to the Israeli company the “Maoz” can hover for 15 minutes and can be operated after battery replacement for 50 hours without maintenance.

The micro system can hover to a distance of 1 km from its operator in an urban area and 5 km in an open one. Hovering altitude is 100 meters in an open area and 50 in an urban one. Rafael plans to equip the micro system with a day CCCD camera and with a special night vision sensor.

The Israeli company says that the system has very impressive capabilities for this type of hovering system – a detection of a person from a range of 180 meters, recognizing him at a 60 meters range and incriminating him at a range of 30 meters,vehicles can be detected at a range of 400 meters and recognized at a range of 60 meters.
http://i-hls.com/2014/06/new-israeli...vering-system/




 

muttbutt

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http://youtu.be/vX8Z2MDYX3g
(DARPA) EXACTO Demonstrates First-Ever Guided .50-Caliber Bullets <blockquote> DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program recently conducted the first successful live-fire tests demonstrating in-flight guidance of .50-caliber bullets. This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are offset from where the sniper rifle is aimed. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits.
The EXACTO program is developing new approaches and advanced capabilities to improve the range and accuracy of sniper systems beyond the current state of the art. For more information, please visit the program page. Rest at the link</blockquote>
<blockquote>
http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Rele...medium=twitter</blockquote>
 

muttbutt

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Hot Breath said:
bobbymike said:
HSD recently completed a multi-year collaboration with the US Army RDECOM Laboratory’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center to develop a Next Generation Respiratory Protection System (NGRPS).
The NGRPS concept is an integrated headgear solution which uses scalable protection for the future warfighter.
The system allows scalable protection ranging from Air-Purifing Respirator (APR), Powered Air-Purifing Respirator (PAPR), and Closed-Circuit Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (CC SCBA) modes or operation.
The NGRPS provides an integrated headgear solution that allows for operational tailoring and does not require helmet removal for donning. The system includes a CB liner system that integrates the mounting of the ballistic helmet shell and CB Mask system allowing for a completely sealed environment.
http://hs-design.com/hsDNA/2014/01/next-generation-respiratory-protection-system/





 

muttbutt

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Reminds me of the helmet and breather worn by the geno soldiers from the movie "Soldier" ;D

 

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Patrick Tucker June 25, 2014
The Military Is About to Get New Spy Glasses
Getting secret information to specific people, like the location of the nearest nuclear power plant, in a way that doesn’t draw attention from outside is a classic spy problem. Another one is giving agents the ability to match names to faces in the real world, at blackjack tables and fancy soirees and other places spies frequent. The Defense Department is buying some new spy specs to give spooks in the field an intelligence edge over everybody else.
Author Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He’s also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014). Previously, Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist, where he served for nine years. Tucker's writing on emerging technology ... Full Bio
The glasses, called simply the X6, are from San Francisco-based Osterhout Design Group. They look like the lovechild of Google Glass and the Oculus Rift, providing more information to the wearer than the small window on Google’s much-maligned headset but not obstructing vision like the Oculus Rift. (Admittedly, for spy glasses, they lack a certain subtlety.)At a recent innovation symposium at Defense Intelligence Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., Bobby King, vice president of special projects for Osterhout, demonstrated how the headset provides situational intelligence. Defense One looked through the glasses at a static, two-dimensional map and suddenly structures appeared in three dimensions related to objects of interest. King confirmed that the map was just a regular print of a satellite photograph. With that particular app, the glasses send information to a server that then processes the image against others to determine the location depicted. The glasses then present data from the database visually in the form of structures, special instructions, clues, etc. The view was smarter and more useful than what you would see with Google Glass, but didn’t get in the way of the user’s ability to actually see, like a clunky virtual reality headset.
“Augmented reality is the fusion of data and your real environment. We’re looking for an immersive feeling, but not virtual,” King said.
Cool map data aren’t the only secret messages you can receive on the X6. Previous reports have hinted at how the glasses might be useful for gaming and training as well. It’s one reason why Microsoft reportedly inked an intellectual property deal with the company for about $150 million earlier this year. The military and intelligence capabilities are a bit more interesting than its relevance as a gaming platform.
Ever been to a gathering where you saw someone’s face but you couldn’t remember her name or why she was important? It’s not just a cocktail party problem but a national security one. A year old startup form Australia called Imagus, has developed a program for the X6 that fixes the problem.Peering through the glasses at a poster of faces while wearing the X6, a tester using the Imagus facial recognition app sees a pair of small circles appear on the eyes of the various targets and then a quick match showed up in the view as demonstrated in a somewhat unnerving video from General Dynamics Information Technology, GDIT, highlights the “dynamic environment of non-cooperative facial recognition.” The Imagus app can match a face in real time to one in a database at a resolution of just twelve pixels between the eyes according to lead software engineer Steve Brain. (Anything under sixty is considered very good in the facial recognition world.) The size of the headset seems to help with targeting the camera to improve speed and accuracy. The glasses could be modified to connect to a military biometrics databases such as BEWL, King confirmed.
GDIT is working with Osterhout, Imagus and other small companies to develop a host of apps and programs around the X6 platform.
“What they want with the glasses is to bring in a lot of different applications. Facial recognition technologies from images is just one example,” Lynn Schnurr, vice president at General Dynamics Information Technology, told Defense One. The Defense Department has purchased 500 beta units of the glasses according to King. Unfortunately, the government’s spy specs are not for you. “It’s not yet commercially available, but for the government, yes.
http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2014/06/military-about-get-new-spy-glasses/87292/
 

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http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/08/25/researchers-give-thumbs-down-to-armys-new-prototype-helmet-for-protecting-against-brain-injuries/
 

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bobbymike

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http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/sep/12/pentagons-experimental-4-minute-mile-jetpack-wows-/
 

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The average spider can stay perched in a web for long hours waiting for prey and can lift eight times its own body weight. The average soldier – cannot. The military is trying to change that with help from scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, called on to develop a so-called “Soft Exosuit.” The suit would imbue the wearer with what might be called “super” endurance and lifting ability. It may sounds like the “Iron Man” suit the military’s already tinkering with, but this Spidey suit would be constructed mostly of an experimental textile material in a scientifically-designed “web” pattern, rather than a bunch of hydraulic pumps and metal.
It would have a small low-energy microprocessor but wouldn’t need an enormous battery pack for operation. The prototype even comes equipped with Spidey sense in the form of a “network of supple strain sensors that act as the ‘brain’ and ‘nervous system’ of the Soft Exo-suit, respectively — continuously monitoring various data signals, including the suit tension, the position of the wearer (e.g., walking, running, crouched), and more.”
rest at the link
http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2014/09/military-just-asked-harvard-make-them-spiderman-suit/93905/
 

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http://www.technologyreview.com/news/530751/motorized-pants-to-help-soldiers-and-stroke-victims/
 

Grey Havoc

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http://www.livescience.com/47890-self-healing-implants-darpa.html
 

muttbutt

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Military Wants Next Generation Night Vision Goggles
The military’s top research laboratory wants to replace its standard issue night vision goggles with a lighter more powerful version.
The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) said today’s night vision goggles are too heavy and cumbersome for troops and have led to short term and long term neck injuries.
DARPA officials have put out a call to companies to issue proposals to build the next generation of night vision goggles. Proposals must put forth a plan to design goggles that look a lot like a bulky pair commercial sunglasses. The night vision glasses must be able to instantly switch from daylight to infrared.
Military leaders worry that soldiers and Marines don’t have the same advantage they once did in the night as more armies and fighters get access to commercial night vision goggles. DARPA made a point to highlight the development of devices like Goggle glasses that allow for instantaneous mobile computing.


U.S. Special Operations Command will serve as the acquisition agency for the program. Below is a wish list that DARPA put forth for what it expects from the next generation NVGs:
  • Form Factor and Appearance that blends with commercial sunglasses/eyewear, coverage of both eyes preferable
  • Volume less than or equal to twice that of commercial sunglasses/eyewear
  • Weight less than current visual augmentation systems
  • Power greater than 24 hours run time on one charge, with power source included in weight metric
  • Cost of less than $5000 in volume of 1000 or more
  • Visual Acuity of Snellen 20/20 at clear starlight to direct day sun over 90-degree vertical and 120-degree horizontal feld of view (FOV)
  • Low latency (photon in to receipt by eye) of less than or equal to 2ms
  • Supports interface with tactical computing elements and communications systems, to include the transmission of sound and video to other team members
  • 6 Axis Inertial Measurement Unit, Compass, GPS
  • Interoperable external data and power interfaces
  • Withstand Military Specifications for environmental, EMI, and ballistics
Rest at the dubly do.
http://kitup.military.com/2014/09/military-generation-night-vision.html
 

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/11139242/Aquaman-crystal-could-see-humans-breathe-underwater.html
 

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http://www.armytimes.com/article/20141012/NEWS04/310120010/Next-gen-night-vision-would-enable-troops-see-farther-clearer
 

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Talos made the Sen Tom Coburn 2014 Waste book. Only 80m has been dedicated for the next five years and the report claims requires at least 1B.
As stated in earlier posts Talos requires a Manhattan Project like effort.
 

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Probably convergent design solutions, but that chinese exoskeleton leg brace style is very similar to the HULC prototypes.
 

bobbymike

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ouroboros said:
Probably convergent design solutions, but that chinese exoskeleton leg brace style is very similar to the HULC prototypes.
I like it, PLA Office of Convergent Design Solutions..............AKA Hacking and thieving defense/industrial secrets. "Hey look at the similarities of the J-31 and the F-35", "Yes the design 'conveniently converged'" :eek:
 

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There is a video (which I can't seem to get to embed here :mad: ) of the Chinese exosuit in "action" along with some information...including the plan for an IOC in 2016 ::)
 

muttbutt

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It's a pity this thread is strictly military kit only, most of the exoskeletons we have ongoing in Europe are civvie projects :(

Including a rather impressive one from Italy.
 

bobbymike

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muttbutt said:
It's a pity this thread is strictly military kit only, most of the exoskeletons we have ongoing in Europe are civvie projects :(

Including a rather impressive one from Italy.
They more than likely have a military use so would still post here for member interest.
 

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Japanese civil exoskeleton work has been coming along in various incarnations since Cyberdyne's HAL suit. There was a recent annoucement for a pneumatic actuator+cable type suit going on sale, with only a small onboard compressed air tank (it assumes a working environment with readily available compressed air, such as hospitals and factories), which oddly seems to use some sort of mouth suction control.

http://innophys.jp

There was the recent showing of a korean shipyard (Daewoo?) using a HULC style exoskeleton with over-shoulder cargo lift brace with a magnet for lifting steel segments. An american shipyard also was recently on exoskeleton variations, such as an Aliens style steadycam arm on the pelvis to support tools, and a MIT I believe was working on a suit with auxiliary support arms to hold stuff while you work on it (aka Doctor Octopus style secondary arms).

There is a swiss company working on leg (more like ass) support exoskeletons.

http://www.noonee.ch

I believe Toyota and other japanese companies have been working on similar leg type exoskeletons for factory use. Komatsu has been working on a upper torso/arm exosuit for agricultural applications (not really powerful, but picking fruit overhead really tires out the arms, so having the weight of the arm nullified is a huge boost in and of itself). Panasonic, via a subsidiary, is working on full exosuits (I think they actually use a powerloader nomenclature, and they sure look like that Aliens powerloader exosuit).

BMW was using a 3D printed hand/thumb brace (passive exoskeleton?) to make certain factory work easier.
 

muttbutt

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Something a little different but it may have practical uses, Bionic boots by Keahi Seymour.They are claiming you could hit 40KMH..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMeuX3j8OKk&index=1&list=UUiAPcM4MOsRhv7kcR6Ci5JA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O15UPhuOg54


http://www.bionicboot.com/
 

The Artist

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Those Bionic Boots, while using high tech materials, would probably still be classed as stilts. And, that stilts can boost speed is not new knowledge. Jim Henson talked about that fact in the making of documentary The World of The Dark Crystal when talking about the Landstrider costumes. With that discussion was shown footage of movement and costume tests. The attached small image is the best I could find with a quick search.

However. The use of springs in the Bionic Boots is an improvement in stilt technology as it decreases the length of stilt required to attain the higher speeds. Lower to the ground is safer and, from a military view, presents less of a target.
 

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The Bionic Boot seems to be a newer variation of other, preexisting power boot footwear. Most of those tended to use a steel or carbon fiber rebound bar/spring arcing from the contact pad to the back of the lower leg. This one appears to use pneumatic dampers similar to artificial muscle actuators, the idea being the tensile strength of the bladder tubes contains the pressure of compression as the tube is stretched out lengthwise. I suppose the good point of this system is that the "muscle" seems to tailorable by varying the number of tubes, which would seem to be easier than swapping out rebound bar assemblies of classical powerboots. Also, single tube failure wouldn't be as catastrophic as a carbon fiber spar shattering...
 

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http://ajw.asahi.com/article/sci_tech/technology/AJ201412050035
 

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Robo-Mate: Intelligent exoskeleton based on human-robot interaction for manipulation of heavy goods in Europe's factories of the future
In Europe’s industry and industrial manufacturing processes, manual material handling is one of the most frequent operations. This material handling is carried out by workers. However, load manipulation and manual handling has a severe impact on workers’ health. Work related low back pain and injuries are the most common musculoskeletal disorders and they are directly related to frequent manual handling of heavy loads.
The goal of Robo-Mate is to develop a user-friendly intelligent light or mid-weight human-robotic exoskeleton for manual handling work in different industries. The device will be deployable within half a day and will not require task specific programming. The newly developed exoskeleton will be highly flexible and used directly in craft or mass production or in auxiliary processes.

Much more at the link
http://www.robo-mate.eu



First prototype is supposed to be tested in Summer 2015.
 

fredymac

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Parker Hannifin seems to be making a play for medical exoskeletons.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8mNP2cdbiE
 

bobbymike

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http://gearscout.militarytimes.com/2015/01/28/if-tony-stark-were-real-hed-run-revision/
 

muttbutt

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University of Limerick developing assistive exoskeletons for older adults 08.04.2015 16:40
University of Limerick developing assistive exoskeletons for older adults
€250,000 in funding has been awarded to researchers in the University of Limerick (UL) to help develop a cutting-edge exoskeleton to assist older adults.
Part of the wider AXO-SUIT project, UL is partnering with Cork-based MTD to design and manufacture the device, with the whole project in general billed as a three-year activity, with a budget of €3m.
UL’s involvement is headed by Dr Leonard O’Sullivan, senior lecturer of ergonomics and human factors in the college's department of design and manufacturing technology.It's all about the user“The research we’ll be doing here in Limerick is specifically in the area of user-centred design, and also the ergonomic modelling of the exoskeleton design as it comes together,” he explained.
User-centred design is critical in this field because, without it, functionality is useless.
“Exoskeletons have already been designed, some in rehabilitation settings. But in order for them to be able to be used in normal settings, they are going to have to be designed so they are useable. They’re technically fine, but for a user to put them on, we’re dealing with people of reduced mobility here…"
Dr O’Sullivan’s team of post-doctoral and post-graduate researchers will be working on the project, which actually began late last year, for the full three years – and the assistance of MTD seems a fine fit.
“MTD are an engineering company that have been doing a lot of work in the pharma and med tech area, so they have a very good reputation on the mechanical engineering side of things,” said Dr O’Sullivan.
The Cork company will be involved in the design evaluation from a mechanical point of view and they will also be manufacturing the trial exoskeletons.

An artist's render of the project's exoskeleton plans, via AXO-SUIT
This isn’t the first time Dr O’Sullivan and his UL team have worked on a project such as this. In the summer of 2013 he and his colleagues secured a major €480,000 in funding as part of a €5.8m EU project called Robomate.
In that instance too they were developing an exoskeleton, however it was related to industrial workers to help tackle musculoskeletal injuries.
In this case, Dr O’Sullivan hopes that come the expiration of the three-year project, he and his team will have developed a fully marketable product for an area set to boom.
Assisting people of reduced mobility is a growing concern worldwide, with World Health Organisation predictions that the world’s population of those aged over 60 will double by 2050.
By then representing 22pc of the world’s population, the imperative behind agility in our later years will become all the more important as the working lifespan is forced to increase for us all.
The project is coordinated by the European Commission's Ambient Assisted Living project.
http://www.siliconrepublic.com/innovation/item/41516-university-of-limerick-deve/
 

Grey Havoc

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I remember seeing an early ancestor of this (legs only) way back in the '90s on a visit to UL.
 
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