Transformer-like suit lets you lift 110 pounds -- with each hand

It lets you lift up to 220 pounds like you're lifting a baby. It has 22 different points of movement. And it makes you look a little like Optimus Prime. It's the "body extender" from Perceptual Robotics Laboratory in Italy. And it would make one hell of a Halloween costume.

The Percro engineers who invented the robotic exoskeleton say it's the most sophisticated wearable robot developed to date. They say it could be used to assist in disaster zones as wearers would be able to lift large pieces of rubble off people trapped by earthquake debris, though as of now, there's no word on when it will be available. The contraption lets wearers lift up to 110 pounds with each hand.

"It's a device that's able to track the complex movements of the human body, and also to amplify the force of the user," Fabio Selsedo from Percro told the BBC. … Read more

3D-printed exoskeleton helps paralyzed skier walk again

Amanda Boxtel's doctors told her she'd never walk again. But her new 3D-printed exoskeleton says otherwise.

In 1992, Boxtel was paralyzed from the waist down in a catastrophic skiing accident. But 22 years later, thanks to a groundbreaking 3D-printed robotic suit developed by 3D Systems and EksoBionics, she's able to stand up and move around on her own. … Read more

Gaming exoskeleton to pair with Oculus Rift headset at CES 2014

LAS VEGAS -- The future of gaming, at least to those banking on the rise of virtual reality, lies not just with better graphics or voice control, but with sensor suits and headsets that bring our real-world movements to life onscreen. At CES 2014, the PrioVR full-body tracking suit is on display and the company behind it, YEI Technology, is partnering with VR headset maker Oculus Rift to showoff a fully immersive gaming experience later this week.

Sailing toward the far-off sci-fi future of those powered exoskeletons in "The Matrix" or the video game series Crysis, the PrioVR hardware is a string of strap-on sensors extensive enough to make anyone look like an actor in a motion capture studio. Its half-body system includes sensors for a user's head, elbows, and wrists that can be expanded into a full-body suit that tracks one's shoulder, waist and leg movements.… Read more

World Cup to begin with mind-controlled exoskeleton kick

A paralyzed teen, using a mind-controlled exoskeleton, will start off the World Cup 2014 in Brazil, thanks to The Walk Again Project.

The exoskeleton will support the lower part of the body and enable the paralyzed wearer to walk using wireless electrodes attached to the head that collect brainwaves, which then signal the suit to move.

The Walk Again Project is a nonprofit collaboration among the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering; Technical University of Munich; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne; Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil; University of California at Davis; University … Read more

Next up in robot suits for the paralyzed: Mind control?

What if people who are paralyzed could use their brainwaves to get up out of wheelchairs and walk away? That's exactly what researchers from the University of Houston are hoping to accomplish with the latest evolution of robotic exoskeletons. They're turning to mind control to move these high-tech mobility machines to the next level -- and take patients with them.

The idea for for a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton came to engineering professor Jose Contreras-Vidal, the project's lead, after Duke University's Miguel Nicolelis demonstrated that electrode arrays implanted in monkey brains could pick up on the neuron-firing patterns that occur when the monkey thinks about walking.

"Contreras-Vidal's group found out they could get the same effects using EEG (electroencephalography) to control an exoskeleton. EEG doesn't have the spatial resolution of an implanted electrode array, but it is noninvasive and has the added benefit of being able to measure electrical activity across the entire brain," Popular Mechanics reported. … Read more

Military hunts for real-life Iron Man armor

What if US special forces troops could virtually walk through a hail of bullets, lift objects with superhuman strength, and see in the dark?

A planned exoskeleton called the The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) aims to give them those abilities if it can actually be built.

US Special Operations Command chief William McRaven has been asking industry, academia, and entrepreneurs to collaborate in building the sci-fi armor, which was inspired by the death of a commando in Afghanistan. … Read more

Tom Cruise's Twitter love-in with DARPA

The government and the people haven't entirely been as one of late.

There's been a touch of friction, a frisson of discomfort in the relationship.

So it's uplifting when fears of schism are alleviated by one of the people's foremost representatives.

Yes, Tom Cruise offered a doe-eyed tweet about DARPA's forward progress.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is where so many scientific breakthroughs are enacted first.

So Cruise, himself a representative of Scientological progress, released a tweet Thursday that offered: "@DARPA getting closer to real-life #EdgeOfTomorrow exoskeleton...amazing! http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/… Read more

HAL robot suit modified to take on nuclear plants

You're sweating in your bulky radiation suit, your dosimeter is freaking you out, and you're trying to close a valve that might just save a large portion of the population from some very nasty fallout.

Wouldn't it be nice to have some robotic help?

Japan's robot start-up Cyberdyne is modifying its Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) power suit for use by first responders in nuclear accidents.

The exoskeleton is being improved to help workers who have to wear heavy radiation protection clothing. Japan is still struggling with radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was severely damaged last year during one of the country's most powerful earthquakes. … Read more

NASA exoskeleton suit is half way to Iron Man

The X1 Robotic Exoskeleton looks like a cross between the legs of a Stormtrooper and a Transformer. The suit is a spinoff from NASA's Robonaut 2 humanoid robot project.

The X1 is focused on either helping or hindering a person's legs, depending on its job description. When it's set to inhibit, the X1 resists movement and could be used to help astronauts exercise in space. When it's set to help, it could be used to assist paraplegics and others with lower body injuries with walking.

Four motorized joints and six passive joints give the 57-pound suit a good range of motion. It also gives it some nice Iron Man flavor, minus the propulsion feet.… Read more

3D-printed 'magic arms' give little girl new reach

Thanks to 3D-printed plastic appendages, 4.5-year-old Emma Lavelle now plays with blocks.

Born with a rare neuromuscular condition called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita that causes contracted joints and muscle weakness, Emma has almost nonexistent biceps that cannot move against gravity. Her "magic arms," as she has dubbed them, change that.

The plastic appendages attach to a Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX) developed at the Center for Orthopedics Research and Development at Delaware's Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. The WREX is a modular body-powered upper-limb orthosis generally mounted to a wheelchair.

"The existing WREX is all metal parts and is kind of big," Tariq Rahman, a mechanical engineer and head of pediatric engineering and research at Nemours, explains in the video below. "Emma was too small for that, so it required something light and small that would attach to her body that would go with her." … Read more