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First Military Exoskeleton Reaches Prototype

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the now-time-to-mount-a-cannon-on-it dept.

Robotics 397

JonathanGCohen writes "The U.S. Military has created the first ever prototype for an exoskeleton to be worn by soldiers capable of making its 100 pound weight and a 70 pound supply package feel like five pounds." From the article: "Bleex 1 consists of a pair of hydraulically powered leg braces, more than 40 electronic sensors, a control computer, and an internal-combustion engine providing power from an attached backpack. The plastic and carbon-fiber braces are affixed rigidly to the soldier through a customized pair of standard Army boots, with more compliant and giving connections at the chest and waist. These looser connections prevent blisters and abrasions."

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Bah. (5, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354511)


This is not news.
It's been done before, and it's been done better. [theonion.com]
^_^

Re:Bah. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354684)

Dear Homo,

Please lose the anime smiley,

Many thanks,

AC

Re:Bah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354792)

If the army boots are customized that means they're not standard.

Err.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354518)

It's dead, Jim.

Re:Err.... (1)

lazer_nm (593581) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354548)

Is this link broken?? keeps tellin me... Either this [philoneist.com] or this article [machinedesign.com] seems to work though??

Machine Design link seems to work (1)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354578)

I got through to Machine Design [machinedesign.com] on the first attempt.

Article text for those having troubles (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354610)

Giving soldiers a high-tech leg up

Those whiz kids at Darpa are at it again. This time they want to use technology to let soldiers carry up to 220 lb in backpacks over all types of terrain, terrain vehicles can't get through, and for extended lengths of time. They believe the key is wearable robotic exoskeletons and have invested $50 million in the project. One recipient, a design team at the University of California, Berkeley, is under the lead of Mechanical Engineering Prof. H. Kazerooni. They've completed work on their first prototype, Bleex 1 (for Berkeley lower extremity exoskeleton) and are working on Bleex 2.

Bleex 1 consists of a pair of hydraulically powered leg braces, more than 40 electronic sensors, a control computer, and an internal-combustion engine providing power from an attached backpack. The plastic and carbon-fiber braces are affixed rigidly to the soldier through a customized pair of standard Army boots, with more compliant and giving connections at the chest and waist. These looser connections prevent blisters and abrasions.

The 2-hp engine turns a pump to pressurize the hydraulic system with 1,000-psi fluid. Hydraulics power the actuators, giving the exoskeleton its muscles and letting it move. The engine also turns a generator for electricity. The device carries about a quart of gas, enough for 15 min of high-powered walking. After experimenting with a number of fuels, including concentrated hydrogen peroxide, Kazerooni decided on using gasoline based on its power density. It also lets the device be refueled in the field. If Darpa has its way, however, the exoskeleton delivered to the Army will probably use JP-4, the common battlefield fuel for tanks, humvees, and other armored vehicles.

Key to controlling Bleex 1 is the lack of operator controls. Instead, Berkeley researchers clinically analyzed the human gait and programmed the robotic legs to follow that pattern. The wearer simply moves his limbs, and the suit detects that movement and powers the suit to follow. The backpack load is almost entirely supported by Bleex. But because the device is so sensitive to inputs, it is almost unstable, says Kazerooni. The operator is needed to provide balance.

"The pilot is not 'driving' the exoskeleton," says Kazerooni. "Instead, the control algorithms in the computer constantly calculate how to move the exoskeleton so that it moves in concert with the human."

Each leg has five electronic modules connected in a high-speed synchronous ring network or LAN. Each module is connected to nearby sensors and actuators, and all modules talk to each other, as well a controlling computer. A third ring network lets the design team debug the system and acquire data. Eventually, the third ring may support electronic and communication gear needed by the soldier (but not by the exoskeleton).

During development, an operator donned Bleex 1, which weighed about 100 lb, along with a backpack carrying a 70-lb load. He could walk at about two steps per second (or 6 fps) and it felt like he was only lugging a 5-lb load. The first prototype was restricted to walking on flat terrain and not-too-steep hills, but the wearer could also squat, bend, and swing from side to side, as well as step over obstacles. The suit is water resistant and will float, according to its inventors.

The next-generation device, Bleex 2, should be unveiled soon. The biggest change, and challenge, is devising a new power source. For example, it could use a hybrid power source instead of just a gas engine, which might cut down on weight and noise. Weight reduction is a major goal of the team and Bleex 2 should tip the scales at half the weight of Bleex 1. In tests, Bleex 2 let operators carry 200-lb loads and run faster than 6 fps. The Berkeley team is also working on extending the range, flexibility, and agility of the system.

(Goddammit, I'm trying to post this and damned /. is complaining that it's been 4 minutes since I last posted... how long do I effing have to wait? Is this going to be a dupe by the time it finally lets me?)

I am first!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354519)

Imagine a cluster of these running Linux!?!?!

15 minutes? (4, Insightful)

Renraku (518261) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354520)

Which would you rather do: Carry 70 pounds throughout your journey, or carry 5 pounds for the first 15 minutes and then well over a hundred for the rest?

Re:15 minutes? (5, Insightful)

Silicon Avatar (30968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354541)

First "airplane" only lifted off the ground for 15 minutes (I think?)

Which would you rather do? Ride a stagecoach for months to cross the country? or Fly for 15 minutes ...

I think you see where I'm going with this.

Re:15 minutes? (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354561)

Depends on how long I intend to be travelling. I mean, if it's just for 15 minutes...

Re:15 minutes? (3, Insightful)

no_pets (881013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354576)

Too bad I don't have mod points for you. I don't know how much weight the military currently expects a soldier to carry but if they can make 70lbs feel like five (not to mention the 100lbs of the exoskeleton) then the military will probably only be limited by bulk instead of mass while piling more supplies onto their soldiers.

It would definitely suck once the equipment fails (totally or partially) in the field. A soldier could be ditching up to 80% of their supplies after a failure.

Re:15 minutes? (1)

irc.goatse.cx troll (593289) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354771)

Or just include some decent wheels and a rope, if it fails and is vital just drag it.

Re:15 minutes? (3, Interesting)

dc29A (636871) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354632)

My question is why this exoskeleton? Why not some vehicle that can resist a blast from a roadside bomb? The US army is ridiculously powerful, no nation stands a chance in direct confrontation. So the only option is what the insurgents in Iraq are doing: guerilla warfare. How will this slow exoskeleton help that? The soldier who could duck for cover when attacked now won't be able as fast. This exoskeleton sucks for defending and going after people in cities, close alleys.

Re:15 minutes? (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354691)

My thoughts exactly. How would these come in handy during battle or at unsafe locations? And if you're in a safe location, why not just use a forklift or truck? Talk about pork that needs to be cut out...

Re:If they only up-armored it (4, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354723)

This exoskeleton sucks for defending and going after people in cities, close alleys.

It would be good if they figured out how to enclose a soldier in plated armor strong enough to withstand a IED (although that maight be a lot of armor).

The main benefits of that would be that even though you are slow you can take a punishment and still be able to get into alleys, buildings, and other places a M1Abrahms can't get into.

Then again... It would be more logical to send in a remote controlled robot with a machine gun on it.

Re:If they only up-armored it (4, Informative)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354752)

A term has already been coined for this kind of armored exoskeleton system:

MechWarrior.

Re:15 minutes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354745)

you try running 4 miles per hour (6ft/second) for an extended period of time with 100lbs on your back. go ahead.

Re:15 minutes? (5, Interesting)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354770)

Exoskeletons currently only have one reasonable use based on the level of developement.

Guard

Guards are high profile targets that tend to stay in one locationt. Make this thing a hybrid and give them a power cable that can disconnect easily and you give them the ability to carry a ridiculous amount of armor. Current body armor weighs in under 30 lbs. Now imagine being able to be able to wear 200lbs. Along with that instead of carrying a light carbine the standard weapon could be a much heavier rifle or squad gun.

Currently the only method of having a "big dog on a chain" at a defensive position is to have a mounted gun position or a light armored vehicle mounted gun. Neither of which are manuverable nor unable to deal with close quarters opponents at odd angles of fire and both make nice big fat targets for RPG's.

This armored exoskeleton would have most of the advantages and fewer of the disadvantages and provide the intimidation and defensive capabilities the Army is looking for. It'll be some time were you'll see long range patrols using this equipment until some large advancements can be made to the max weight and the density of the power source.

teh sux (1)

Oldsmobile (930596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354783)

Imagine this:

So you are hiking along, wearing this in Iraq. The Mujahideen ambushes you. So what do you do? Try to get out of it asap? Try to run away, you big ol' target you?

Or how about this:

You are hiking in Afghanistan along a sloping mountain. You trip, or lose your balance. You have 80 kilos + whatever the motor and stuff weighs on your back. You fall forward, it crushes your back. You fall sideways, you tumble to your death.

Either way, this idea sucks and you are dead/horribly wounded.

"Help, I'm seriously injured! I'm going to try to get up"

*CRACK*

Bleex 2 (5, Funny)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354523)

the newer version will allow soldiers ... wearing it to move faster than 6 feet per second.

thus actually enabling a real version of "The Wrong Trousers"

Re:Bleex 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354594)

6fps comes out to slightly-less-than brisk 4.1 mph.

Re:Bleex 2 (2, Informative)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354597)

Average walking speed is around 3mph for women and 3.5mph for males.

Re:Bleex 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354695)

I suppose you're right, 4.1 mph is pretty fast, then.

Already in testing (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354524)


Here is Lieutenant Ripley testing the device. [totalmodel.com]

Re:Already in testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354575)

congrats on the birthday dude! Many more.

Re:Already in testing (1)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354734)

"Here is Lieutenant Ripley testing the device."

She is very shiny!

Alien (0, Redundant)

k00110 (932544) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354526)

As seen in Alien movie

Re:Alien (1)

woah (781250) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354622)

It's acutally in Aliens [imdb.com] , not Alien [imdb.com] .

old news (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354527)

I am fairly sure the machine design aritcal that your link references is several months old.

Here is another link:

http://bleex.me.berkeley.edu/bleex.htm [berkeley.edu]

Re:old news (2, Interesting)

Michalson (638911) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354644)

Of course it's old. If you advance the article id by 1, the next story is about redefining the kilograms (which is months old). The only story here is some guy using easily exploitable Slashdot "editors" to get a link to his blog posted on the front page in order to get lots of hits from which he gets money.

is this worth it? (2, Interesting)

evoltap (863300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354669)

After watching those videos at the UC Berkeley site I wonder how practical this thing is. -Very loud gas engine (dangerous too with the jet fuel) -Seems very awkward and unatural for the person wearing it. Why not just work on robots that will carry heavy things? The fact that the apparatus weighs so much in comparison to what it allows you to carry also seems ridicules.

civilian use (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354530)

Perhaps this can be adapted to civilian use to enable the traditional "groom carrying the bride over the threshold" maneuver that is becoming increasingly more difficult in the US.

Responsiveness? (3, Insightful)

Poromenos1 (830658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354534)

I suspect the biggest obstacle to comfortably using exoskeletons is responsiveness. If you want to move your hand, you just think about it and it takes a few milliseconds to move. With an exoskeleton, you have to hit the sensors (perhaps past their critical point), and the hydraulics/whatever has to kick in and move it. How long does that take?

Re:Responsiveness? (3, Insightful)

Miaowara_Tomokato (757775) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354571)

I would posit that the biggest obstacle to comfortably using a military exoskeleton would be the the bad guy with an RPG/antitank rocket that sees a large, obvious target walking along with the rest of a column.

Re:Responsiveness? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354614)

One RPG per person? And that's even if they hit, RPGs aren't very accurate, not to mention that people can dodge rather well.

Re:Responsiveness? (2, Insightful)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354697)

I suspect the biggest obstacle to comfortably using exoskeletons is responsiveness. If you want to move your hand, you just think about it and it takes a few milliseconds to move. With an exoskeleton, you have to hit the sensors (perhaps past their critical point), and the hydraulics/whatever has to kick in and move it. How long does that take?

You're talking about the response time here of the system, and yes on a big system it gets to be an issue. Rule of thumb is to keep the response time to under 100ms worst case which is usually doable.

Another issue is not only removing the apparent weight of what you are holding but also the inertia. Removing the weight in a control loop just requires good velocity sensors which are commonplace, but you still feel the weight when you change velocity. Removing the inertia means you have how measure the acceleration very accurately so you either get the acceleration directly from the sensor (high precision = expensive) or take the derivative of the velocity sensor which introduces delay and noise. Stable inertial compensation is not trivial.

that's great... (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354535)

Bleex 1 consists of a pair of hydraulically powered leg braces, more than 40 electronic sensors, a control computer, and an internal-combustion engine providing power from an attached backpack.

that's great, but can it find Sarah Connor?

Re:that's great... (1)

Hymer (856453) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354703)

Not yet...Cyberdyne Systems Corp. has however recently announced that the T-800 version will be able to find anybody anywhere, the T-800 is a part of the SkyNet defense system.

Re:that's great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354769)

that's great, but can it find Sarah Connor?

hmm... that sounds familiar [slashdot.org]

Re:that's great... (0, Troll)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354790)

that's great, but can it find Sarah Connor?

More to the point can it find Osama Bin Laden? It'd be nice if some one would look for the murdering SOB. Unless he makes the mistake of hidding in an oil field I'd say he's pretty safe right now.

Don't RTFA (0, Flamebait)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354545)

this proves without any doubt that editors not only do not RTFAs they do not even click on the link , sheeesh.

Re:Don't RTFA (0, Troll)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354577)

err...this is not flamebait, click on the link then. you will see what i mean.

link fixed (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354655)

ok the link has been fixed it now.

Boom! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354555)

TFA says, and I quote "Carrying a quart of military standard JP-4 gas". Now as a member of the US military, I will not wear this. JP-4 has a very low flash point and is very unstable, not to mention it is a JET FUEL, one spark and you would be toasted. A better alternative would be JP-8, which while still jet fuel, you can throw a match into and nothing will happen since it's flash point is extremely high. Either way I personally don't want to have a quart of jet fuel on me the next time I go to the desert...just sounds like bad news to me.

Re:Boom! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354623)

you can throw a match into and nothing will happen since it's flash point is extremely high

When will people learn the difference between it's and its?

Falling down (4, Interesting)

ewg (158266) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354564)

If the wearer/opeartor falls down, can they stand up again unassisted?

I get a picture of beached whales or insects on their backs.

Not trolling, I really want to know!

Here we go again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354565)

Cue the bitching about this guy's shameless advertising.

Tin soliders... (4, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354566)

It would really suck to be wearing one of these things when an EMP bomb goes off over the battlefield. I'm sure 170 pounds is not going to feel like 5 pounds after the electronics shuts down.

Re:Tin soliders... (4, Informative)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354609)

you would be surprised how overblown the "dangers of emp" really are for hardened equipment.

Hint: if this thing is for battlefield use, it wont have exposed cables/sockets. The whole exteriour will be a groundplane.
Any EMP strong enough to kill it would electrocute you via your tooth cavity filling, too.

(emps work well vs cities, not military units. just like biological/chemical weapons...)

Re:Tin soliders... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354668)

Sounds like the fear people have of that elevators will drop to the ground if one of its wires break. I'm sure the engineers have thought about worst case scenario for this machine as well. ;)

Re:Tin soliders... (1)

Mahou (873114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354685)

of course, then they could just TAKE IT OFF, and then carry their 70 pounds of equipment(or less, i forgot the maximum the army has set for people to carry) and leave their exo's behind.

Re:Tin soliders... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354758)

It would really suck to be wearing one of these things when an EMP bomb goes off over the battlefield.

If an EMP goes off over a battle field, wearing one of these are the least of your worries.

You know... Like the helicopter you happen to be flying in at that moment in time.

Link to REAL article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354568)

I hate it when people post front page articles that just link to some kids blog who THEN links to the posted article, i thought the internet was about cutting out middlemen and going straight to the source ? anyway the original article with better pics etc....

Giving soldiers a high-tech leg up [machinedesign.com]

Geek's Dream (1)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354570)

The real best use for this is obvious. Geek's would love to have one. Imagine the chicks you could pick up wearing one of these babies :-)

Re:Geek's Dream (5, Funny)

TCQuad (537187) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354633)

Imagine the chicks you could pick up wearing one of these babies :-)

Yeah, but then you have to deal with them yelling "Put me down, put me down!"

Re:Geek's Dream (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354657)

if you need an exoskeleton to pick up a chick, then i think you may want to reconsider the chick...

Re:Geek's Dream (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354651)

...until she demands you put her back down.

Re:Geek's Dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354759)

Imagine the chicks you could pick up wearing one of these babies

Literally or figuratively?

the Berkeley link (1)

JonathanGCohen (939606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354586)

I'd like to thank whoever posted the link to UC Berkeley's page. As the Machine Design article I summarized doesn't have a date, I was unaware of the history of the project. I hope most people are as intrigued by this cool military tech as I am.

Oh yeah, supervillians! I've been waiting for this (1)

Wisgary (799898) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354590)

Necessity is the mother of all invention, so when bad guys start breaking down bank safe doors with a single punch of this apparatus, a worthy superhero will rise against these robotic beasts. Comic book world here we come!

Walking is not fighting. (3, Insightful)

bchernicoff (788760) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354596)

This is far cry from something useful. Soldiers do a lot more than walking. What about running, diving, low crawling to some cover, then firing from a crouched postion?

Re:Walking is not fighting. (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354750)

In Afghanistan, most of the reald work (i.e. chasing terrorists) is done on foot. I'm sure the soldiers there would appreciate not having to lug 70 lbs of stuff around at 9000 feet. If you do need to do something else, just get out of it, do it, than strap the exoskeleton back on.

Re:Walking is not fighting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354784)

Even as a baby, you had to walk before you could run or fight. They already have a #2 prototype that is 1/2 the weight of the #1 prototype, patience my friend!

RTFA (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354793)

It's designed as an all-terrain vehicle, not some kind of mighty all-purpose super suit.

Nitpick (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354601)

through a customized pair of standard Army boots

      Then they're not exactly standard if they are customized... details, details...

Re:Nitpick (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354665)

Bah.

The meaning is obvious: Get pair of standard army boots. Add customizations. Voila! Customized pair of standard army boots.

Compare with: Build pair of army boots from scratch to custom specifications. Voila! Pair of custom-built army boots.

Duh (1)

Damingo (803966) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354612)

Has no one noticed the massive problem here? If this is ment for a figting force, how the heck can you hide from fire when wearing this! The backpack is huge, talkabout a painting a target on your back. Although I suppose the Americans do like to have something to shoot at (perhaps they should paint it blue?) ========== The Digerati (We hate IPODS) - Had to fix two on Christmas Day Its Self! ==========

Re:Duh (1)

EvilMonkeySlayer (826044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354699)

It's a pointless technological toy, it's something that all large organisations face. Needless spending.

Like the UK did, the USA needs a comprehensive spending review of its armed forces.
While a mech like this looks cool there are so many impracticalities as to make this utterly useless.

Customized Standard? (1)

ScislaC (827506) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354613)

...a customized pair of standard Army boots...
If they're customized, aren't they no longer "standard"?

Are hydraulic exoskeletons the only way? (0)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354617)

Hydraulic exoskeletons sound cool and all, but is there a way to do power-assist through springs?
The only power needed would be provided by our own muscles to compress the springs.

Re:Are hydraulic exoskeletons the only way? (1)

gatekeep (122108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354645)

Have you ever tried to draw a crossbow without the aide of a winch?

Re:Are hydraulic exoskeletons the only way? (1)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354670)

Well, crossbow is designed to release all the energy at once. But if you put a tight crossbow perpendicular to the other one, by extending itself, it would compress the other one. The two balance each other out. (I'm assuming all this, of course:)

Re:Are hydraulic exoskeletons the only way? (4, Informative)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354680)

You're kidding, right?

The only force coming out of the springs would be the force you used to compress them. So instead of using that force to just carry the damn load directly, you're using that force to compress the springs to carry the load. Add to that the force needed to carry the springs themselves, and the force lost through entropy, and you've got the stupidest powered exoskeleton idea I've heard all day.

Re:Are hydraulic exoskeletons the only way? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354733)

It is possible that you could make something useful along this line of thinking. Pretty much all the muscles in your body come in pairs. If there was some way that you can use one set to add energy to some kind of spring/elastic material so that the next motion the stored energe will add force from the spring to your (other set of) muscles, then somehow you might make a suit that doubled the force of each motion you make. Of course, you end up doing at least twice as much work... so maybe in some situations the tradeoff might be worth it.

Re:Are hydraulic exoskeletons the only way? (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354778)

It is possible that you could make something useful along this line of thinking. Pretty much all the muscles in your body come in pairs. If there was some way that you can use one set to add energy to some kind of spring/elastic material so that the next motion the stored energe will add force from the spring to your (other set of) muscles, then somehow you might make a suit that doubled the force of each motion you make. Of course, you end up doing at least twice as much work... so maybe in some situations the tradeoff might be worth it.

I think you misspelled "perpetual motion".

Power Armor and Full Plate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354635)

While the system has a lot of potential, I suspect you're going to eventually have to reach a completely enclosed system that acts more like power armor (a la Battletech or Warhammer 40,000) or a fully enclosed Battlemech. The greatest advantage a higher load capability offers is the opportunity to incorporate better protection schemes, meaning this device would be well-suited for extremely hostile environments or missions.

In the realm of armor, I'm surprised noone has tried incorporating modern materials technology into medieval full suits of armor. Full plate was remarkably easy to manuever in (knights were able to do handstands), and creating a modern suit out of ceramics or composites that incorporated light weight with ballistic protection would feasibly make for a useful high-risk assault armor. Such a system would be useful for SWAT operations or short-range military missions, where the support structure is nearby and the operators don't have to carry their own supplies.

Japanese version (2, Informative)

vectorian798 (792613) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354639)

As you might recall, the Japanese beat Professor Kaz's team to it, although the application the Japanese one is aimed at is different:
The Sexy Japanese Version [techdigest.tv]

BTW isn't having a gas engine bad because of the noise it might make?

Book recommendation and a discussion question (5, Interesting)

lilmouse (310335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354640)

I really recommend reading Forever Peace [wikipedia.org] by Joe Haldeman. It explores some of the issues (many of them moral) that come about when one nation can make war on another nation with no risk to its own men (through the use of robotic suits that have eventually had the humans taken all the way out). We're definitely headed that way...

It's a fabulous book - from the same guy who wrote Forever War, but it's not a series or anything.

Anyway, here's a question to toss out:

If one man can cause pain to another man with no risk to himself, then it's basically torture.

If a group of men can do it to a different group of men, what is it?

--LWM

Re:Book recommendation and a discussion question (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354702)

This is a really good question, I was wondering also if the USA had robots soldier in Irak right now and no humans at all how would that change the percentage of people who opose this war in the USA population?

Politics is a contact sport. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354751)

"If a group of men can do it to a different group of men, what is it?"

Congress.

This really could help... (2, Interesting)

squidguy (846256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354661)

Meanwhile, the US military recently launched a study into why so many soldiers and Marines were suffering back injuries (both during and post-deployment). Extreme equipment weights are cited as primary factors. So, technologies like this could really help.

Now we know (5, Funny)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354662)

During development, an operator donned Bleex 1, which weighed about 100 lb, along with a backpack carrying a 70-lb load. He could walk at about two steps per second (or 6 fps) and it felt like he was only lugging a 5-lb load. The first prototype was restricted to walking on flat terrain and not-too-steep hills, but the wearer could also squat, bend, and swing from side to side, as well as step over obstacles. The suit is water resistant and will float, according to its inventors.

Now at last I realize why I have been playing so many futuristic soldiers in games that can carry sixteens different heavy weapons weighing hundreds of pounds, but cannot jump over a three-foot tall wall. They all had the Bleex.

But at what price? (0, Troll)

therage96 (912259) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354663)

I'm sure its all well and good to be able to carry all that equipment without as much effort, but still, I question how seriously our army will be taken while looking as though all our soldier's have ghetto-booties? Then again, it worked for JLo.

Other potential customers (1)

BlueBiker (690984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354688)

here [lechatnoirboutique.com]

How useful is this? (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354689)

So what happens when you have to crawl or climb something with your hands and feet? Does the 5 pound weight turn into 150? What if you have to hit the deck, how are you supposed to get up easily? Whats the point in a system thats not designed to make you stronger, only to let you carry more weight over reasonable conditions, and only if someone else actually picks it up? Why invest so much in that when you can more cheaply just get an extra person in to share the load? I thought the point of exoskeletons was to make you stronger so you could pick up heavy things (by pick up i mean with your hands or robot hands) and have more stamina, so you could easily win hand to hand combat and so you could have a stable, smooth mount point for your gun to improve accuracy.

Re:How useful is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354774)

I have a feeling the army is going to end up looking for the next "tank" and the extra weight is more a matter of adding extra armor and weapons to a soldier. Of course, as a great side effect, this soldiers would have less back pain... go figure.

Will they issue "LifeAlert" with this? (5, Funny)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354718)

"Help. I've fallen and I can't get up!"

Question? (1)

Enrique1218 (603187) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354719)

How do you get out of the device quickly? What affect does this have on a soldier's mobility?. Can he run if he is ambushed? With warfare the way it is today, he mostly won't know when the bullets will start flying. So mobility is key to increasing the survival rate of our soldiers in the field. The thing looks pretty clunky to me so it maybe better to designed a robot to carry the gear and free the soldier to engage the enemy at moments notice.

I for one... (1)

perigee369 (837140) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354722)

Welcome our new exoskeleton-based overlor..*CRUNCH*

Ouch - man that's gonna leave a mark....

The engine (2, Funny)

3TimeLoser (853209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354726)

Wouldn't it be funny if it had an unmuffled 2-stroke engine?

Whiinnnnnnngggg-ding-ding-ding...

I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354756)

Welcome our new military-cyborg-hydraulic-legged overlords!

It's Research (1)

Tairnyn (740378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354766)

It's not supposed to be efficient yet, it's just supposed to work. If they can get the concept down it's only a matter of optimization as they move forward. They've shown that the technology can get us there, which is what the people with all the money want to know before they decide to spend on it.

Prototype includes legislator-ready PR photo (1)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354780)

Got to love how any military product has to have a PR photo ready first, results later. Research in any other field doesn't need consumer-electronics-level designers quite so early in the project. Something about that gives me the willies.

typical US military pork (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14354782)

gdit, how about we get our soldiers things they NEED? They have unprotected humvees and lack body armor, but our friggen military spends millions on this crap.

Oh and how about we actually send them to areas that are really threats? Or even better how about we elect a cabinet not full of evil corporatist snake oil salesmen, and send these guys to the front lines?

Too many questions, not enough answers (4, Interesting)

Robbyboy (802040) | more than 8 years ago | (#14354789)

I saw this and being in the military, I had some questions. First about the article:

philoneist is very sketchy about this article and points to machinedesign and DARPA. I goto machine design and the entire article is undated giving no clue as to how old this thing may actually be. Now I start digging, most articles outside of the ones that are referenced in /. are in the 2003-2004 timeframe. I had to really dig to find ANYTHING about bleex in DARPA. This does not seem to be breaking news based on what I was actually able to find.

Now some valid points about this program were raised. My big question is what happens if said soldier/sailor/airman/marine etc is carring near max load and this thing suffers a catastrophic failure... Some special forces can handle 100 pounds of gear, but 200 pounds, catastrophic failure... In a word, Yikes!

I think DARPA will be better off looking into the cooling systems and making things smaller rather than helping us carry bigger and more...

Of course, thats just my opinion, I could be wrong...

Robert A. Wukich, Sr FF/EMT-B Sgt/USMC

My opinions do not reflect that of the USMC, Armed Forces, DoD, or anyone other than myself!

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