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a. The ExoSkeleton Concept
Powered exoskeleton

A powered exoskeleton is a powered mobile machine consisting primarily of an exoskeleton-like framework worn by a person and a power supply that supplies at least part of the activation-energy for limb movement.

Powered exoskeletons are designed to assist and protect the wearer. They may be designed, for example, to assist and protect soldiers and construction workers, or to aid the survival of people in other dangerous environments. A wide medical market exists in the future of prosthetics to provide mobility assistance for aged and infirm people. Other possibilities include rescue work, such as in collapsed buildings, in which the device might allow a rescue worker to lift heavy debris, while simultaneously protecting the worker from falling rubble.

The first exoskeleton was co-developed by General Electric and the United States military in the 1960s, named Hardiman, which made lifting 250 pounds (110 kg) feel like lifting 10 pounds (4.5 kg). It was impractical due to its 1,500 pounds (680 kg) weight. The project was not successful. Any attempt to use the full exoskeleton resulted in a violent uncontrolled motion, and as a result it was never tested with a human inside. Further research concentrated on one arm. Although it could lift its specified load of 750 pounds (340kg), it weighed three quarters of a ton, just over twice the liftable load. Without getting all the components to work together the practical uses for the Hardiman project were limited.

Working examples of powered exoskeletons have been constructed but are not currently widely deployed. Various problems remain to be solved, including suitable power-supply. However three companies launched exoskeleton suits for people with disabilities in 2010.

Many variations of exoskeletons can be found in science fiction and gaming (e.g. Warhammer 40,000). It was first popularized in Robert A. Heinlein's 1959 novel Starship Troopers where powered armor was used by the Mobile Infantry. Powered armor technology grew to serve as the centerpiece for bestselling novels such as Armor by John Steakley and Dominant Species by Michael E. Marks. While a realistic visual depiction of powered armor had long been a challenge for practical (live actor in a suit) filming, advances in computer animation have opened the door for several powered armor-centric movies including the film Iron Man, its sequel, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Science fiction video games such as Crysis and science fiction wargames such as Warhammer 40,000 focus on elaborate representations of powered armor. Several cartoons and Japanese animation have also depicted similar concepts for powered exoskeletons such as ground troops in Exosquad(American series) and Appleseed(Japanese series) While these technologies are clearly over the horizon in terms of current machine and material science, DARPA is actively pursuing a multi-million dollar program "Concepts of Operations for Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation (EHPA)" to develop them

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01/09/2010 16:08
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