At long last, exoskeletons, once the stuff of science fiction, are on the verge of proving themselves in military and civilian applications. This new generation of anthropomorphic, untethered, and self-powered exoskeletons is marrying humans' decision-making capabilities with machines' dexterity and brute force.
ETA: November 2005 in Japan
According to an article in the October issue of IEEE Spectrum, the very first commercially available exoskeleton, scheduled to hit the market in Japan in November, is designed to help elderly and disabled people walk and carry things.
Cost: The exoskeleton, called HAL-5 is built by Cyberdyne Inc. in Tsukuba, Japan, and will cost about 1.5 million yen (around US $13 800).
Status in Japan: lab prototype and 1st generation commercial version
Status in the USA: lab prototype 2nd generation
Meanwhile, in the United States, the most advanced exoskeleton projects are at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Sarcos Research Corp., in Salt Lake City.
Both are funded under a $40 million, five-year program begun by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 2001. According to the Spectrum article, during the past several months each group has been field-testing a second-generation exoskeleton that is a huge improvement over its predecessor.
DARPA's exoskeleton research program is called the: Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation (EHPA) Program.
The overall goal of the Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation (EHPA) Program is to develop devices and machines that will increase the speed, strength, and endurance of soldiers in combat environments.
Projects will lead to self-powered, controlled, and wearable exoskeletal devices and/or machines and demonstrations of their utility in military applications. Inclusion of exoskeleton technology into land-based operations could radically alter the current military doctrine though significant increases in the doctrine though significant increases in the load-carrying and power deliver capacity of the individual soldier. This technology will extend the mission payload and/or mission range of the soldier and increase the lethality and survivability of ground troops for short-range missions and special operations. Currently the program is evaluating exoskeleton prototypes with the goal of determining the best applications for exoskeleton technology in the near and far terms.
What do you think humans will be like with super-capabilities in an "enhanced reality" world?
In his new book, Ray Kursweil calls it Human 2.0
We are witnessing a new "blended reality", where people are morphing into robots and robots are acting more and more like people.
Key Driver: Body Modification
The growth of Exoskeletons is one trend that clusters together with other similar trends into a Major Driveing Force called Body Modifcation.
We see numerous examples of our culture’s fascination with body modifications that range from tattooing, piercing, and cutting, to anorexia, plastic surgery, (currently illegal) stem cell treatments for cosmetic rejuvenation, organ transplants, capability enhancement ( exoskeletons) and life-extension technologies such as the possibility of rejuvenation medicine (regrowing a younger version our own cells, tissues and whole organs),
The UC Santa Cruz Institute for Advanced Feminist Research (IAFR) will present a three-day conference on body modification, on October 14-16, 2005 entitled "Bodies in the Making: Transgressions and Transformations,"
IAFR director Helene Moglen,said that the conference emerged from the recognition that in the 21st century: "the body is experienced less as a fixed entity than as a changeable product and a project of technological, medical, and artistic invention."
Expert, Consultant and Guest Speaker on the emerging Smart Technologies and author of an upcoming book on the Smart Economy
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- old Japanese proverb
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