Wearable Robots

By on June 14, 2004

Remember the scene in the first Alien movie where Ripley fights the Queen baddie using a semi-robotic lifting machine? Well, it looks like that technology is getting closer to real-world applications. Inventor Steven Jacobsen is showing off a prototype of his device, and is working with robotics gurus Sarcos to make it a production reality.

Strap it on, go for a walk on the treadmill or up and down stairs while carrying a 90-kilogram load on your back, and it feels as if you’re carrying nothing, says Jacobsen. You can even balance on one foot with a person on your back and barely feel any more fatigued than if you were standing by yourself, he adds. The exoskeleton adds strength because it stays in parallel with the user’s legs and pushes on the ground.

Military uses seem to be first in line for this device, but I can think of lots of other uses for it in industry, construction, even in nursing homes — anywhere lifting and lifting-related injuries are involved. I don’t think they’ll have one ready for my backyard landscaping project though.



  1. Here’s the thing that freaks me out about this —

    Say you’re carrying a Honda Civic around on your back and you have a malfunction, or you lose power, or something else. What happens? I imagine you’d become a part of the Civic’s floorpan pretty quickly.

  2. I thought the same thing Deane, but instead imagine people playing enhanced sports using these sort of devices. People would tune in to the sport, much like car racing, in hopes to see a catastrophic accident.

  3. Shesh. I put this up as news about a serious technological development, which could be of real help in the real world, and what do we get? Hulk-O-Rama Sumo Wrestling and Superman Football. ;o)

    Actually, what I’d like to build with this sort of thing is a strap-on ornithopter! Now THAT would be cool!

  4. I’ve always thought that demolition derby with those little Bobcat mini-front end loaders would be an awesome sport for ESPN2! Just armor them so the propane tank can’t be punctured. The can flip on to their roofs and right themselves, so the only way to take one out would be to knock it on its side. TLC is missing out on a great show there to put on after Junkyard Wars.

  5. Hey, did you know that that scene was actually in the second movie, Aliens? That was the one with lots of aliens, and Ripley fought off the queen alien using something like this.

    This newsworthy comment brought to you by the Office of Redundancy and Repetition Office.

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