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Robotics Science

Exoskeletons in IEEE Spectrum 124

Rob the Bold writes "October IEEE Spectrum magazine (print and online) reports on worldwide developments in exoskeleton technology. Applications include mobility for the disabled, increased lifting power for cargo loaders and nurses, and faster running capability. Developments in the US, Europe and Asia are reviewed." From the article: "Today, in Japan and the United States, engineers are finally putting some practical exoskeletons through their paces outside of laboratories. But don't look for these remarkable new systems to bust bricks or spew lightning. The very first commercially available exoskeleton, scheduled to hit the market in Japan next month, is designed to help elderly and disabled people walk, climb stairs, and carry things around. Built by Cyberdyne Inc., in Tsukuba, Japan, this exoskeleton, called HAL-5, will cost about 1.5 million yen (around US $13 800)."
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Exoskeletons in IEEE Spectrum

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 08, 2005 @09:50PM (#13748730)
    The company's called Cyberdyne and the exoskeleton is called HAL? I think I know where this is going ...
  • Interesting (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So, so many times have I said "If I only had an exoskeleton, I could ward off these feral Oliphants". I wonder if there will be dealer financing...

  • T E R M I N A T O R

    Cyberdyne Series 101 Terminator Endoskeleton
    Height: 1.8 meters
    DEX: 4D+2
    Blaster 6D, Brawling Parry 5D, Firearms 6D, Grenade 6D,
    Melee Combat 6D, Melee Parry 5D
    KNO: 3D
    Scholar: Human Anatomy 8D, Survival: Wasteland 6D,
    Languages 10D, Intimidation 7D,
    Scholar: Cyberdyne Systems 6D
    MEC: 3D+2
    Ground Vehicle Operation 6D
    PER: 3D
    Investigation 7D, Search 8D
    STR: 6D
    Brawling 8D, Climbing/Jumping 7D, Lifting 8D, Stamina 8D
    TEC: 3D+2
    Blaster Repair 6D, Firearms Repair 6D, Demolition 7D,
    First Aid 6D, Ground V
    • Didn't you read the article summary? This robot is going to be used to help "elderly and disabled people walk, climb stairs, and carry things around".

      Therefore, clearly the movie one ought to be referencing here is "Roujin Z".

  • Sigh. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by picz plz ( 915164 )
    Another technology that will increase the cost of medical care, which will increase the demand for socialized care, that will increase the taxes I and everyone else has to pay.
    • Re:Sigh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @10:05PM (#13748772)
      Will it really increase the cost, however? I mean, it costs far more for a nurse to care for an elderly patient. If the patients can care for themselves, then that reduces the number of nurses required. I would be inclined to say that a nurse costs far more than $14000, and you have to keep paying each nurse's salary each year! Devices like these may works for many years, perhaps even with minimal upkeep costs. Thus your taxes may very well decrease because of technology such as this.

      • Re:Sigh. (Score:4, Funny)

        by k_187 ( 61692 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @10:18PM (#13748808) Journal
        yeah, until all the cybernetic octogenerians decide to TAKE OVER THE WORLD
        • Flamebait? From where will this post lure flames?
        • Re:Sigh. (Score:2, Funny)

          by cortex ( 168860 )
          The though of my octogenarian grandmother (who has been know to hit people with her cane when angered) in possession of one of these exo-skeletons fills me with horror
      • But robots and old people are natural enemies. Robots eat old people's medicine for fuel!
      • Instead of these costly solutions we should just turn the elderly and disabled into Soylent Green.
        • Yeah, it would also save a lot of money & society resources if we did that to troublemakers. And poor people. And kids.
          • If we turn kids into Soylent Green, we will shortly run out of old and poor people. There's a good reason to only eat the sick and the old.
            • Who cares? It takes a lot of money to raise & care for kids. If you recycle them all before spending that money, that will leave that much more resources for the rest of us to squander.
      • Will it really increase the cost, however? I mean, it costs far more for a nurse to care for an elderly patient.

        Yes, and not only that but most of the western world is on the verge of a massive shift in age distribution. From 2010 to 2050 there will be extremely many more elders, and far fewer in the work force. Manhours are likely to become excessively expensive. It is not just the shift itself, but all the indirect consequences. We will need a lot more healthcare personnel and related services, and both t
      • Taxes never decrease. Anything left after taking 'what we need to spend' from 'what we collected this year' either gets spent on other things or gets embezzled.
    • WIll lower the costs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @10:43PM (#13748888) Journal
      These devices will end up in warehouses for moving heavy cargo. Sure you can use a forklift, but these will probably cost a fraction of one and be able to pick up ~ 1/4 the weight. That is the space where 1-2 men carry things around, and get bad backs all the time.
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @09:51PM (#13748737) Journal
    If this didn't have IEEE all over it, I'd have thought that was a joke? Cyberdyne Inc, HAL?

    Let the jokes begin
  • Watch out when they start moving on their own looking for skynet...
  • by MxTxL ( 307166 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @09:52PM (#13748742)
    Wow, how did that slip through marketing?
    Cyberdyne Systems []
    HAL []
  • I think they called it that to increase their chances to be visited by terminator and gain major competitive advantage.
  • by dummyname12 ( 886454 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @09:52PM (#13748744)
    ...and start putting more money into space exploration. Afterall, what good is an exoskeleton without the giant alien queen to fight with it?
  • Eeek! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hawthorne01 ( 575586 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @10:01PM (#13748767)
    Earlier today, we had a story here about autonomous robot cars [].

    Now this.

    That does it. I'm buying lots of big guns and moving to the Mojave Desert.
    • Re:Eeek! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @10:14PM (#13748795)
      You picked the worst possible place. Read the article you linked to. The robots already know how to navigate the Mojave Desert!.

      • Maybe he should move to the city. Then, the police will have to stop every other car in the vicinity when a robot moves around. They'll never get anywhere.
      • Ah, but can they swim and climb trees? Perhaps a condo-treehouse on an island in the middle of a lake or large river? If all else fails, there are always hobbit holes []! For those suddenly experiencing an unsure sinking sensation, don't worry, these people [] are sure that digging a hobbit hole won't sink an island.
    • In the real 21st century, the robot reads your intentions out of the Slashdot archive, cross references your name to your email with google, uses your email to retrieve your credit record and postal address, enters your zipcode into google maps, spots your fortified compound in a satellite photo, and turns up at the door disguised as a travelling salesman for exactly the brand of Russian marital aids for which your purchase histoy shows such fondness.
  • I call bs... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheVoice900 ( 467327 ) <kamil@kamilkisie ... inus threevowels> on Saturday October 08, 2005 @10:07PM (#13748779)
    Just check out their website: []. Looks like an amateur hack...
    The photos indicate the all important GLOWING RING JOINTS on the exoskeleton, no doubt the first feature to be implemented. If you look at the corporate info, the company was founded in June of 2004, and has a capital of 10M JPY.. which looks big at first sight, until you consider it's just a little under 90k USD. Looks to me as if they're pulling our leg, especially considering how little real info there is here. I won't even get in to the no doubt intentionally comedic naming of the company and its "product". Also check out this pic: [], yeah.. that exoskeleton is definitely necessary to lift a 90 lb. Japanese girl..
    • Judging from the picture on their site, I remember seeing this in a NewScientist issue. I don't think it's a hoax, or if it *is* one then they've done a very good job at making all appearances seem otherwise. As for the glowing joints...what? A (potentially) good product with a good designer? Only Apple does that!
    • Good Call (Score:3, Interesting)

      by clark625 ( 308380 )
      I tend to agree with you on this one. I'm not about to say that an exoskeleton wouldn't be cool, or even handy. It's long been a desire for humans to lift/carry more weight for longer distances, etc.

      Anyway, this particular system wouldn't support a person without control over their lower limbs. For one, the weight distribution for the person is all at the waist and upper thighs. If we were to say that the handicapped individual is extremely light at a mere 80lbs, he or she still would be too heavy to ho
      • And by the way ... just where is/are the battery(ies)?"

        BWUHa Ha Ha HA hAAAAA
        These aren't Exoskeletons at all ... No, they're Eeeevil ROBOTS that are powered by humans. Once the Robot has drained the human "power-cell", it is discarded and a new one is plumbed in.

        "To Serve Humans" indeed! ... Hasn't ANYONE thought of the children!

    • Re:I call bs... (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Notice too in the picture that the supposed load-bearing structure of the device ends at the ankle rather than transfering the downward force of a load to the floor. Not what I would call structurally sound design.
    • If you look closely at the second picture that you linekd to, [] - you can see two things.

      A) The demo was held at the World Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan. All the robots that were demoed there were functional to various degrees (some are commercially available, some are lab prototypes, but they all were functional - no funky mockups). I know this because I was there ( /back-in-tokyo.html []) and I recognize exactly wh
    • actually, as already mentioned the thing is sponsored by a division of the Japanese government, I doubt it's a hoax. Also, the other pictures are of HAL-3, the old model. The new model, HAL-5, does extend the exoskeleton to the ground: []
      • ...I for one have been eagerly anticipating this technology, as my son must cope with muscular-dystrophy, and this could provide a way for him to get out of his wheel-chair. Now if they could get the price down to 3-4,000 dollars Canadian, I might even find a way to afford it!
        • Is it possible for Canadian citizens to lobby for experimental or otherwise new treatments eval programs in your medical system? There must be many parents in your position. You've probably got enough on your plate already, but peraps it's worth looking to see if there's a muscular-dystrophy parents association; and if so, aksing them if they'd be interested in pushing for this. Even if the tech's not ready yet, possibly best to get moving now so as to have a program in place for when it is. Yeah, I know it
    • Here is a link to the new scientist article that someone mentioned. 9 45.800 [] Here is a link to a guy who is an actual cyborg. This person lost both of his arms and now he can robotic arms just by thinking about it. Not necessairly related but it shows it's possible. hnology/c83d87fd92c26010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.h tml [] Also here is the article: 6010vgnvcm10 []
    • Just FYI, 10 M yen is the MINIMUM to start a business in Japan. Basically this does not state real capital at all, it's just saying that they put up just enough to get a business licsence. I know the last company I worked for in Japan had that exact same 10 million yen on thier website for years even while making hundreds of millions of yen a year.
    • I would just call it a hoax because the people wearing the thing in those pictures look WAY too serious. It's as though they don't realize the exact kinds of jokes they're FEEDING Slashdotters.
  • But when... (Score:4, Funny)

    by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @10:09PM (#13748785)
    Does the liquid metal version come out?

    Think of the storage space needed and time to strap the suit on. I want to just pour it over me and start hunting John Con--er carrying heavy loads at work.
    • Does the liquid metal version come out?

      Only if you fall into a volcano while wearing one. But don't because if you do you will trigger the legal department to put tags on all future models:

      "Warning: do not rip this tag off and do not wonder near active volcanos".

      Everytime somebody does something stupid with a product, it produces a new warning tag. (Hmmmm. I wonder if too many warning tags poses a danger of snagging?)
  • Exoskeletons? I thought this technology was invented millions of years ago!
  • by Douglas Simmons ( 628988 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @10:21PM (#13748813) Homepage
    designed to help elderly and disabled people walk, climb stairs, and carry things around.

    My 91 year old grandmother's being issued a walker was a blow to her pride and quality of life. She's in a home where they keep an eye on you, help you pee and take meds. They try to make sure she uses her walker, but there are times when she is alone in her room at night, probably loaded on bourbon, and she tries to make it to the bathroom without her walker. She's fallen multiple times doing this, the last time breaking her pelvis.

    Now if these Japanese could make a device to protect the health of loved ones, especially the uncooperative flavor, that they are more inclined to use because it isn't as big a pain in the ass as her walker and the like, you'd see them export even more goods.

    The last Japanese themed article I read on slashdot was about some stupid heat efficient automatic door thing, and like a lot of people, it struck me as vapor that ain't gonna happen. Here this may not be the case because there is potentially strong demand from people like me to pull this through enough R&D to get in finally into the market. I'm not the only one with a 91 year old grandma with a strong appreciation of whiskey. Go Japan.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @10:24PM (#13748825) Homepage Journal
    If a closet [] is "a small, enclosed storage space in a house or building", then are we talking about exoskeletons in the IEEE eClosets?
  • I wonder if this is a stroke of marketing genius to target the tech-friendly nerd culture or simply the result of a very misguided exectutive? I shudder to think about the possible commercials...
  • by Sooner Boomer ( 96864 ) <sooner.boomr@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday October 08, 2005 @11:02PM (#13748931) Journal
    As I've mentioned in previous /. postings, I did work on powered prosthetics back in the mid-late 70's. The two big holdbacks were power and feedback control. They seem to be making progress with the development of nickel-metal hydyide and lithium battery packs. Feedback: kinesthetics (the intuative ability to know where your body parts are), and balance will continue to be challanges. It takes a human being up to several years to be able to walk. Even longer to develop agility for complex tasks such as throwing a ball. Perhaps self-modifying programs capable of "learning", so-called genetic algorythms would be helpfull. Development of robots like Honda's Asimo face similar developmental problems and great progress has been made.
    • (the intuative ability to know where your body parts are)

      Well when you think about it, a car is just an exoskeleton really, and we can manage to drive them around without too much trouble. I doubt maneuvering a real exo around will be any more difficult than wearing a coat two sizes too large...

  • I can see Bob Dole hawking his exoskeleton on TV. Ahhhhrgh, just scorched my retinas on that visual! Can't find the preview button, darned mouse...
  • The Australians actually beat everyone by 99 years. Sorry, the easiest link was a wiki. y_Gang []

    Check out the picture, top right.
  • I want one (Score:3, Funny)

    by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Saturday October 08, 2005 @11:18PM (#13748965)
    Oh, but not for granny to carry her groceries. I want one so I can carry this [].
    • Hmmm.. "even in Death I serve"

      I am just imagining the horror of any slashdot minion in control of a dreadnaught... News bytes like "cut a swathe of destruction through redmond" come to mind..

  • "But don't look for these remarkable new systems to bust bricks or spew lightning."

    That's exactly what I've been looking for. I guess I'll have to wait for the next version :-(
  • .. sure, dismiss it as a yet another boring technological appliance thatll probably never see the light of day..

    But when the time comes for Ripley to fight the queen, we had better have invented those.. or else its game over - game over man!.
  • as soon as someone figures out how to apply carbon nanotube technology to exoskeleton technology, for artificial muscle tissue, that will be the next leap forward in that area of science-- that would seem like a logical application of nanotubes, if they can be built like nano-sized "maglev trains", which can move back and forth, therefore allowing for controllable "shape shifting" within the structure of its intended device (artificial muscle)--
  • by GuyFawkes ( 729054 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @08:46AM (#13750096) Homepage Journal
    There was an article about various sorts of exoskeleton, including actual photohraphs of one with a human being inside it, and it was doing heavy cargo lifting... the article said they were developed for the US Army.

    I was only a kid at the time, and soon forgot all about it.

    Then I saw Alien 2 or 3 whichever it was, and Ripley gets into this big yellow exoskeleton, and I was instantly zapped back to being a small boy reading pop mechanics and seeing pictures of a human being in a damn near identical construct.***

    "Aaaah" I thought, "the special effects guys are my age and read PM too"

    I really cannot be any more accurate about the date, but I can recall other articles in the same time period, the flying car, the PM 38 speedboat (which my dad built), which might be enough for a PM buff to trace it.

    So really this is not news, or even new, it's 40+ years old and predates the Apollo program.

    *** I grew up to be an engineer, like my dad, and now I understand that compared to a cargo lifter of wheels, eg a fork lift, all these exoskeleton designs will be horribly inefficient mechanically and far more expensive to make and maintain, so no conspiracy theory needed to explain why they are hidden away in area 51 and on the sekret moon base
  • How long before these will replace cars as personal transportation devices? Are we going to have to start getting licensed on how to use them just so that we wouldn't "run into each other" at 35mph?
  • I realized the only person idiotic enough to test the thing would be me. Imagine the conversation: Doctor:How did you break both your legs? Me:I was testing my exoskeleton. Doctor:Your what? Me:A suit that I am developing that can help increaase my strength. Doctor:Oooo. So what happened? Me:Let's just say I should have added mechanical stops and not used the most powerful motor I could find first. Doctor:Ooo... Me:Yeah. Im lucky my limbs are still attached.
  • "I've fallen, and I CAN get up..."

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"