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Science Technology

Powered Exoskeleton Legs 385

Posted by michael
from the leap-small-buildings-in-a-single-bound dept.
dyoo78 writes "Berkeley Engineers have come up with an ingenious mechanism that almost mimics, well, Borg technology. Developed by UC Berkeley's Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory, the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX) consists of mechanical metal leg braces that are connected rigidly to the user at the feet, and, in order to prevent abrasion, more compliantly elsewhere. The device includes a power unit and a backpack-like frame used to carry a large load. This development bring to the forefront the ability to not only carry large loads in wartime efforts, but may possibly help people with limited muscle ability to walk optimally."
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Powered Exoskeleton Legs

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  • by andyrut (300890) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:23AM (#8463303) Homepage Journal
    Steven Hawking [theonion.com] has been using this technology for years!
  • by Tikaro (726048) * on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:25AM (#8463320) Homepage
    "In the UC Berkeley experiments, the human pilot moved about a room wearing the 100-pound exoskeleton and a 70-pound backpack while feeling as if he were lugging a mere 5 pounds."
    ...Is that because the backpack contains a 75-pound battery?
    • by saxgod007 (759027) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:29AM (#8463396)
      and then ofcourse, the remaining power readings are wrong and when it says 5 Hours left it says at once: WARNING! You must switch to a power outlet at once or you will break your legs! 'FWEF', power loss 170 pounds on ur legs..
      • by Tikaro (726048) * on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:36AM (#8463498) Homepage
        Maybe the battery can be pulled along behind in a twenty-dollar rolly cart. For that matter, so could the 70-pound backpack in the first place!

        A rich Texan in an airport sees a mad-scientist type puffing along under the weight of two huge and weighty suitcases. "Say, pardner, what time is it?" he asks. The fellow puts down his suitcases and refers to his watch, a humming black conglomeration of dials and lights with a miniature satellite dish spinning on top. "It's 10:28:32 here, precisely, and..." (the inventor's eyes flicker to a set of displays) "your flight is on time, your rental car is waiting in Dallas, and your wife is cooking ribs for dinner tonight!"

        "Holy cow! Sell me that durn thing!" says the Texan, and after some intense negotiations the inventor lets him have it for several million in cash right then and there. The Texan straps the device to his arm and begins to walk away.

        "Hold on!" shouts the inventor, pointing to the two colossal suitcases. "You forgot the batteries!"
    • But will it lug it uphill in the snow both ways?
  • Doing the splits is hard enough, but doing them sideways, in the middle of a somersault would be worse...

    or:

    The infantry advances with incredible speed towards the enemy, the men running across the battlefield at 50 miles/hour, then suddenly start to hop in circles as a small but significant grin occupies the face of the enemy commander...

    [yeah, I know they're not netowrked, yet...]

    Simon
    • by hazee (728152) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:29AM (#8463381)
      Yeah, it only takes a slight bug in the software and this thing will break both your legs in a second.

      Exoskeletons have been designed before, but no-one dared try them on for just this reason.
      • Pyhsical Limits (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EnglishTim (9662) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:34AM (#8463475)
        I'm sure it wouldn't be too tricky to put physical or electrical limits on the exoskeleton to prevent it from moving into a position that the human body can't. I seriously doubt it'd be a big problem.
      • by bfree (113420) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:37AM (#8463517)
        A bug in the software could only cause your legs to break if one of two conditions apply:
        1. You have the leg strength to break your own leg and do so by resisting a machine movement.
        2. The machine is designed so that it can manouver so as to break a leg. The machine should have a physically limited range of motion which does not exceed the wearers!
        So I would have no problem wearing an exoskeleton, if it was designed not to be able to break the human body inside, if it isn't ... who the hell designed it?
      • by dave420 (699308) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:44AM (#8463595)
        All they have to do is make sure it can only move in the same directions and extents as a human. Once that's achieved, it can't possibly break your legs off. After all, it's enhancing existing human motions, not inventing new ones.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        A simple mechanical solution:
        They could put in some easily breakable
        restraints.

        so in case the exoskeleton goes malfunctions,
        you could easily detacch your legs from it..
        or the restraints would break off before
        the force would be strong enough to damage your
        legs.
      • by CriX (628429)
        I've only managed to download the first two videos so maybe it shows in the third, but I wonder if this thing can let the "pilot" stand still with the 100lb bag on his back. You can see the kid kinda throwing his hands out for balance once in a while. For some reason I imagine standing still and balancing the weight would be a lot harder for the machine to interpret and more difficult for the kid to balance than the walking.
      • Oh, that's the kind of thing a smart designer has hammered out in requirements analysis, and the kind of thing a stupid designer will get caught in cert review people. I imagine it really only works in a military review, though, where the human subjects can be commanded to do just about anything, as long as it's reasonable. (And yes, "try to break your legs wearing the exoskeleton" is probably considered reasonable by most military cert types). I just wouldn't expect a civilian model for quite a while.

    • by TopShelf (92521) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:35AM (#8463490) Homepage Journal
      And you know that a cheat for Dance Dance Revolution will make the rounds, too...
  • by JustinXB (756624)
    Alright, cool... But can it play Max 300 on hard in DDR? Yeah, I thought not.
  • welcome! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:26AM (#8463346)
    i, for one, welcome our robotically enabled masters!
  • by stonebeat.org (562495) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:27AM (#8463355) Homepage
    I wasn't sure story to read first, the borg technology or MS assimilating (giving money to) SCO. But they sounded similar, so I went ahead with latter one. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Carrying heavy loads in wartime? You mean, like, say, that backpack full of batteries and equipment to power your cyberlegs?
  • Oh no... not super grannies! Kids giving their grandparents jars to open... I know where this is going!

  • by LookSharp (3864) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:28AM (#8463375)
    Yes, Berkeley-ites! With our patented "Hippie Assist" functionality, you can flee the tyranny of pepper-spray-wielding police at up to three times the speed! And the titanium-alloy supports allow you to carry up to SIX times as many picket sign bearing snappy slogans!

    Worry no more as you march around protesting the cause of the day, as you can taunt the pigs with impunity!

    (Hemp-shoe compatibility guaranteed!)

  • I sure could have used one of those in school.

    Lockers? I don't need no steeking lockers!

  • Excellent. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mondoz (672060) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:29AM (#8463383)
    Add on robotic arms, and we'll be ready to fight off alien queens and throw them out airlocks.
    • Re:Excellent. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Senjaz (188917)
      The loaders out of Alien were actually modelled on a real thing: the hardiman exoskeleton. It was designed by General Electric and I don't think they ever got it working completely.
  • muscles (Score:2, Funny)

    by dj245 (732906)
    All your muscles are belong to us!
  • Yeah, I also saw these in such credible movies as Alien and The Matrix.

  • by RPI Geek (640282) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:29AM (#8463398) Journal
    Does it run Linux? If so, I'm afraid of it. I wouldn't want a malicious penguin taking over control [imdb.com].
  • by Vexler (127353) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:29AM (#8463399) Journal
    Woooowwwwwzzeerrrrrrsssssss!!!!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:30AM (#8463409)
    They're robo-trousers, ex-NASA!
  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:30AM (#8463418) Journal
    I love the photo of the guy wearing it. Let's put Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis in that get-up and see if it looks familiar. Who you gonna call?
    • It's true! He looks just like a young Dan Akroyd! It's funny because it true! All he needs is one of those beam guns and a trap.
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:32AM (#8463435)
    It's the wrong trousers!
  • If you could beef them up with up with better hydrolics - jumping over buildings and matrix type stuff? You got lett it all go Neo, fear, doubt, disbelief, and a sizeable chunk of you savings.
    • Re:I wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wardish (699865)
      *chuckle*

      Don't forget, strength doesn't negate inertia.

      You can go splat insided an exoskeleton just as nicely as you can outside one.
  • by randyest (589159) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:32AM (#8463451) Homepage
    This is great -- it senses your motions and accomodates you, helping you along:

    The researchers point out that the human pilot does not need a joystick, button or special keyboard to "drive" the device. Rather, the machine is designed so that the pilot becomes an integral part of the exoskeleton, thus requiring no special training to use it. In the UC Berkeley experiments, the human pilot moved about a room wearing the 100-pound exoskeleton and a 70-pound backpack while feeling as if he were lugging a mere 5 pounds.

    There was a /. article a few months ago about a Japanese team of researchers who were working on the same sort of device (I don't recall the name, but I'm sure the dupe-hounds will point it out). But if I recall correctly, that system required control imput, such as from a joystick-like device. That limits the robusteness and usability pretty severely, IMHO.

    Interestingly, this thing runs on a gas engine (which powers hydraulics for the powered joints and provides electricity for the computer controls), and:

    The current prototype allows a person to travel over flat terrain and slopes, but work on the exoskeleton is ongoing, with the focus turning to miniaturization of its components. The UC Berkeley engineers are also developing a quieter, more powerful engine, and a faster, more intelligent controller, that will enable the exoskeleton to carry loads up to 120 pounds within the next six months. In addition, the researchers are studying what it takes to enable pilots to run and jump with the exoskeleton legs.

    I want my robot body now please. Price?
    • by Wacky_Wookie (683151) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @12:06PM (#8463881) Homepage Journal
      This was invented by Robert A. Heinlein in the book Starship Troopers!

      Looks like Mr. Heinlein has done it again. He predicted more then a half century ago that the interface for a an exoskelton (which is what the powered armour in ST is) would be through a force feedback system, shere the suit reads human movement and then reacts to it. Thus very little special training is required to use the powered suit, or exoskelton.

      Robert A. Heinlein was also the guy that invented the water bed.
      • Predicted does not equal invented. Heinlein is great and all, but don't pretend that he deserves the credit for all the work engineers have put into this thing.
      • by MotherInferior (698543) * on Thursday March 04, 2004 @12:32PM (#8464289)
        No, Heinlein did not invent these devices any more than Gibson invented the internet (or Stevenson did VR). Scientists and engineers read these books and say to themselves, "Neeto," and then set about to putting in the long hours and frustration to actually make these ideas happen.

        Mucho deserved props to Heinlein et al., but it's the "nobodies" in academic institutions (PhD's and don't forget those indentured servants, aka grad students) and the tinkerers in garages that really make the world go round. Heinlein gets the fame, but sorry, he shouldn't get the credit.

      • Had an extensive article on full body exoskeletons VERY remeniscent of the kit ripley wore in aliens...

        The article included actual photographs of actual working (though tethered by hoses to a static power pack) units that were being developed by/for the US Army.

        I cannot remember the axact issue or year because I was a mere sprog and my dad used to buy the occassional pop mechanics, but it was early sixties.

        This was 45 years ago people....

        Please don't tell me I'm the only fart on /. over 30 who hasn't su
  • by purduephotog (218304) <hirsch@@@inorbit...com> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:33AM (#8463454) Homepage Journal
    Took nearly 2 minutes to download, but watching those short steps around... then finding out that the backpack was loaded with 100lbs.... wow.

    Obviously the future of movement and an important first step, no pun intended.

    So we've got a unit that can carry up to 120lbs of weight. Figure a few more lbs and it may now be able to 'support' a man whos legs no longer work properly. Although this design is based upon feedback from a proper leg to calculate where it is supposed to move/balance.

    The old quote about the yellow pages- let your fingers do the walking- may soon become far more true than you've realized... especially for those born or brought to wheelchair bound.
  • So... I can use this to pick up aliens and throw them out airlocks right? Right? No?!
  • Centre of balance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dj245 (732906) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:34AM (#8463480) Homepage
    I'd be worried about the centre of gravity on this thing. From the picture, things don't look too good. Sure, the person can carry a huge load. But that load is all on his back, with some of it a foot or more away from his body. If he tips over will the legs be any help getting him upright?
  • by cnelzie (451984) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:35AM (#8463485) Homepage
    ...to having technology seen only in science fiction stories happen right in front of our eyes.

    This technology could easily make it possible for soldiers to carry very heavy armor that could possibly protect them from most all small arms fire and possibly even some heavy fire. All the while carrying heavy machine guns and small autoloading cannons that these days require crews to move and operate.
  • Hmmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by Stupid White Man (750118) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:35AM (#8463486) Homepage
    "the wearer can walk, squat, bend and swing from side to side without noticeable reductions in agility."

    But can he LIMBO!
  • by joshv (13017) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:36AM (#8463505)
    The onion is rarely this prescient: http://www.theonion.com/onion3123/hawkingexo.html
  • any bets? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by blue_adept (40915)
    on how long it will be before this kind of equipment becomes standard fare in moutain climbing? Everest may not be so hard anymore, with a mechanical exoskeleton and oxygen tanks, and the kind of people who climb everest (which generally costs over $100,000) have the kind of money to blow on this kind of technology when it becomes available.
  • to this technology for nurses. I think the military has similar things in R&D.

    http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns999 91072
  • We know we've really reached the future when we can build a tank with a hot chick inside [penny-arcade.com].
  • WWF raw next weeks is gonna *rule*.
  • by mykepredko (40154) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:43AM (#8463583) Homepage
    the first steps in producing the powered armor of RAH's "Starship Troopers".

    I found it interesting to use the term "Pilot" for the user/wearer - especially in light that the exoskeleton is designed to be used with apparently little training.

    It's nice to see that we are taking the first steps (excuse the pun) to fight back after space insects destroy Buenos Aires.

    myke
  • I can see it now. A poor cripple in school has this exoskeleton. Then the school bully hacks it to beat up the kid wearing it. Then the bully can be lazy, have virtually no evidence he did the beating and stillbe the bully.
    • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Thursday March 04, 2004 @12:01PM (#8463813) Homepage
      I can see it now. A poor cripple in school has this exoskeleton. Then the school bully hacks it to beat up the kid wearing it.

      ...dude, what makes you think that hacking an embedded system is somehow easy? It's not like some young Val Kilmer-esque rogue will be able to swipe Jeff Goldblum Jr.'s PowerBook and push the big, red, "Make Bob Beat Himself Up" button.

      How do you figure one could quickly, easily and tracelessly hack a system whose only accessible inputs are things like pressure sensors?

  • Hey Darl, that innocent 'kick me' sign is going to take on a whole new meaning. Say hi to the martian rover.
  • Okay, so now they have half of the Aliens Cargo mover exo-skeleton.

    Which by the way seems much more efficient than a forklift.

    So now they can do a bulky exo-skeleton, but can they slim it down and make it an exo-suit?

    Got to love the advances of technology.

    Who says sci-fi doesn't get it right. ;)
  • by StressGuy (472374) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:54AM (#8463722)
    is to get this developed to the point where it could replace a wheelchair. The psychological advantage to a person who'd lost the use of his legs to actually stand up and interact with the world "eye to eye" would have to be powerful. It probably also doesn't hurt to keep the muscles moving and the appropriate neural pathways firing.

    Yea, I know, long way to get there from here, but it's a promising first step. Certainly worth some research dollars in my opinion.

  • Video Clip Mirrors (Score:3, Interesting)

    by flogger (524072) <non@nonegiven> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:56AM (#8463745) Journal
    They vids aren't that exciting. If you are looking for pr0^h^h^h Cool manga type mechs, but if you are interested in human-robitc compatability, this is nice.

    Each video is basically a guy walking around in circles for a minute or so. So if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. :-) But as the downloads at berkley were getting slower and slower, I offer a mirror of the three vid clips:

    Bleex-part1.mpeg [alchurch.net](18)

    Bleex-part2.mpeg [alchurch.net](21 meg)

    Bleex-part3.mpeg [alchurch.net](23 meg)

    [/karmawhoring]
  • Kicking ass and chewing Bubble gum. I think we know what they just ran out of.
  • by raider_red (156642) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:58AM (#8463774) Journal
    The article neglected the real reason for designing it. The guy shown in the picture is an engineering student, and the backpack is full of electrical engineering textbooks. He's trying to make his life easier.
  • by TA (14109) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @11:59AM (#8463793)
    The video clearly showed that the power pack this device currently
    needs is so heavy that a guy wearing the skeleton+power pack looks
    the way I do when I carry 30+ kilos and no exoskeleton! In other words,
    he would be much better off if he left the exoskeleton+power back
    behind, and carried on using natural power only.
    As with a lot of other cool devices, the really big problem is the need
    for compact, efficient, lightweight power sources.
    They currently don't exist.
  • Power Assist Suit (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hiroto. S (631919)
    This one [time.com] has arms.
  • ...and it's smaller to boot:
    Hybrid Assistive Leg [tsukuba.ac.jp]
  • It figures that a university would come up with a way to carry more textbooks! .. now if they could only make the seats in lecture theatres more comfortable.
  • Broken Legs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phorm (591458) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @12:05PM (#8463860) Journal
    "The fundamental technology developed here can also be developed to help people with limited muscle ability to walk optimally"

    Having just broken my ankle recently, I could see how - if priced right - this technology would be great for patients recovering from leg injuries.

    I'm wondering how well it actually supports the legs. Assumedly, one could splint or cast the broken part of the leg/ankle/etc, and allow the mechanics to take weight off the broken areas.

    Even if it weren't useful for an actual break, it would definately be great for the recovery process. I'm getting my cast off tomorrow, but I can see that my muscle atrophied rather quickly. 5 weeks, and my once well-formed muscles are now rather thin (the other leg got a lot stronger though).

    An exoskeleton would assist the weak muscles, while the movement should force movement which would strengthen them over time. I'd go for one if I could get it!
  • Mechwarrior (Score:4, Interesting)

    by akiaki007 (148804) <aa316&nyu,edu> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @12:08PM (#8463912)
    So, the engineers finally played this game and decided that it can't be that hard to actually build a machine like that.

    On a serious note, that's what this is on the way too. Someone above mentioned that this will enable soldiers to carry very heavy armour that can protect them from most small firearms. Soon, there will be arm exoskeletons and then after that we'll have complete exoskeletons, and at some point, the machines will end up looking like the Mechwarrior machines with missiles and automatic machine guns.

    Though it would be nice to think of the possibilities on a humane side. Helping people who've lost the ability to walk, to walk again. But that not what provides the money (the large amounts needed to really propell this). This should make basketball actually watchable again :)
    • Re:Mechwarrior (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JonKatzIsAnIdiot (303978) <.a4261_2000. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Thursday March 04, 2004 @01:08PM (#8464796)
      I don't think this, or anything else, will lead to actual Mechwarrior-type vehicles. Biped robots make for great movies, video games and comic books, but the design is inherently flawed and inefficient. The facts that it took this long to produce a working prototype proves that it's a very tricky thing to do. In comparisin, wheeled vehicles are much easier to design and produce. This means that for every Mechwarrior on the battle field, you could probably have a hundred tanks. Also - a biped robot would have mobility and stability problems. They would be top-heavy, and be prone to tripping (either accidentally or through enemy efforts), and once they fell over, they would be sitting ducks.

      I agree with you about the basketball thing through. Kind of like the basketball game in 'Flubber'!
      • Dual-use (Score:3, Interesting)

        Oh sure, when you're first fighting over a piece of territory, the value of Mechs vs. tanks is arguable... but which do you think the U.S. army would rather have had AFTER the battle?

        A mech could, quite reasonably, lift parts of fallen buildings to rescue people, disassemble roadblocks, dig irrigation canals, replace pipes...

        As with human bipedalism, the advantage would be adaptablity. Three fingered hands alone would be able to handle very large custom tools like shovels, as well as any debri that hap

  • Too light . . . (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scottennis (225462) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @12:12PM (#8463978) Homepage
    The article starts out with a statement of how terrible it would be to haul around a 70 lb pack. That was considered a light load when I was in the Special Forces. Double that capacity and you'll have something the Army might be really interested in.
  • is that the people in charge of funding them are always looking for military use. It goes to show how the US military is spending way too much for what they get. I mean a missile costing 250,000$USD?? cmon it's the size of a spray paint can!

    Now I'm all for helping people with disabilities and all but if they build this with the military in mind they'll most likely not have an invention which is affordable to someone on disability.


  • Would this be something good to build into space suits for exploring places like MARS or the Moon?

    Imagine - a single astronaut being able to carry hundreds of pounds of equipment without even noticing it! Want to move the lander? Have three astronauts pick it up and move it.

  • Here we have the strongest military in human history, with some of the most advanced gadgetry ever devised. So why the hell are people still "hauling a 70-pound pack across miles of rugged terrain" ?

    This justification does not pass the giggle test.
  • Balance issues... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by teridon (139550) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @12:41PM (#8464423) Homepage
    Watch the video, and note the intense concentration on that guy's face! Walking around in those legs is obviously not easy. At some points it looks like he is losing his balance, or at least he feels like he's losing his balance, because he puts his arms out.

    They obviously still have a lot of work to do...
  • by ahem (174666) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @01:07PM (#8464789) Homepage Journal
    I liked how the saftey cable was discreetly dangling down behind the demonstrator's head and connected to the backpack. Good insurance against demo gremlins that would cause the system to seize and make the guy flop forward with 200lbs of stuff landing on his back.
  • by iplayfast (166447) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @01:13PM (#8464876)
    Yes! You too will be able to run across America several times. You will recall that when our hero Forest Gump was a tiny lad, he had these very same braces. With the help of a training team he quickly learned to run very fast and long.

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @02:09PM (#8465619)
    If I get one of those things, I can honestly say to someone:
    "Bite my shiny metal ass!"
  • by Roscol (568423) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @03:07PM (#8466415)

    Excuse me while I shamelessly try to attach myself to work that I can take no credit for.

    Professor Kazerooni was my Masters Advisor while at Berkeley in 96-97. His lab is filled with completed and partially completed robotic mechanisms. He and his students have been working on things like this for years. Just to give you an idea of the advancements, check out the arms [berkeley.edu] and legs [berkeley.edu] of his Electric Power Extender. These things are a lot closer to any Mech than the BLEEX. Then again, these things were attached to several Pentium era PCs and several LARGE wall mounted power racks. The reduction in size is remarkable. Imagine walking into the lab and seeing these big, shiny, robotic legs hanging in the middle of the room for the first time. It is a very cool "oooh" and "ahh" experience.

    I'm a little disappointed that the project I and others worked on is not on his main page. [berkeley.edu] Oh well.

  • by Maskirovka (255712) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @03:35PM (#8466789)
    What'll be funny is when the line at the airport is held up by some pissed granny in an exoskeleton suit throwing a security screener into a 30 foot ceiling for "making her miss her flight".
  • by cr0sh (43134) on Thursday March 04, 2004 @05:56PM (#8469012) Homepage
    I didn't bother reading all 200+ comments so far on this, so I thought I would throw out this:

    Servo Magazine [servomagazine.com] (an offshoot of Nuts and Volts - dedicated to robotics) is sponsoring a competition called "Tetsujin 2004" - aka "Iron Man" - a powered exoskeleton competition, October 21-23, in Santa Clara, CA.

    From what I can gather, I imagine it to be basically what happens when you take powered exoskeletons, and combine them with allure of battle robotics (aka, BattleBots, Robot Wars, BotBash, etc). Essentially, let's see what "garage-level" robotics engineers can come up with in the spare time.

    I think its going to be interesting - seeing how battle robotics have almost single-handedly brought back hobby robotics from the brink...

    Check it out - deadline for registration is in June...

  • 20 Years Ago (Score:3, Informative)

    by DynaSoar (714234) * on Thursday March 04, 2004 @09:39PM (#8471247) Journal
    On 60 Minutes Morely Safer interviewed Nan Davis, a student at Wright State University, who'd recently become paraplegic after an accident. They inserted electromyongram electrodes in her muscles, put her on a stationary exercise bike powered by a motor, and recorded her muscles' responses with an Apple II. They built a set of articifial legs and announced their intention to build a small controller and play the recordings back into the device while it was strapped to her, and she would walk. They said at the time they expected it to be ready in 6 to 12 months. She herself stated she was so certain she would walk again, that she refused to get married to her fiance until she could walk up the aisle herself, using this device. She refused to do it in a wheel chair.

    Only a few weeks later, on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather read the story of her wedding, with video footage showing her indeed walking up the aisle alone using this device. That was one of the two times I've seen Dan Rather cry on camera (the other being during Apollo 8's reading of Genisis during the first orbit of the moon). CBS made a TV movie based on this, called "First Steps".

    I mean, more power to the troops. I carried enough gear enough miles during my enlistments to know how much this would be appreciated. But there's far better uses for this device, and I hope they'll focus as much on those.

    I'm glad I didn't submit this as it was. I decided to try to find out what ever happened to Nan Davis. It was surprisingly easy, and came from a surprising source: http://jfs.ohio.gov/women/essayContest/essays2001/ ferrall.pdf

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