DARPA seeks to create a working supersuit prototype that significantly boosts endurance, carrying capacity and overall Soldier effectiveness-all while using no more than 100 watts of power. They want it to be somfortable, durable and washable. The garment would not interfere with body armor or other standard clothing and gear.
In fiction like Iron Man, the exoskeleton makes the wearer more powerful than a tank. In reality the suits will make factory workers and soldiers more productive and reduce injuries from carrying heavy objects. They will be like more active and updated versions of weight lifting belts.
The most common injuries soldiers face are from carrying their gear-often topping 100 pounds-for extended periods over rough terrain. Heavy loads increase the likelihood of musculoskeletal injury and also exacerbate fatigue, which contributes to both acute and chronic injury and impedes Soldiers’ physical and cognitive abilities to perform mission-oriented tasks.
According to the Work Foundation Alliance (UK), as many as 44 million workers in the European Union are affected by work-place related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), representing a total annual cost of more than 240 billion Euros. To overcome these industrial and societal challenges, a new project, called Robo-Mate, has been designed.
The program is in Warrior Web phase 1 which is called Warrior Web Alpha. These efforts have focused on developing a mix of core component technologies worn at the ankles, hips, knees and upper body. Task A performers have been exploring ways to directly mitigate factors that cause injury, as well as reduce physical burdens by augmenting the work done by Soldiers’ own muscles.
DARPA’s Warrior Web program seeks to create a soft, lightweight under-suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve Soldiers’ ability to efficiently perform their missions. The photos above are examples of three prototypes currently under development.
Component systems within Task A include methods for rapid joint stabilization, functional structures, energy injection, regenerative kinetics, load transfer and distribution, and flexible kinetic and kinematic sensing.
The program’s next phase, Warrior Web Task B: Advanced Technology Development, aims to leverage Task A component technology investments and further advance the development of a fully integrated undersuit system. DARPA now seeks ideas and technical proposals for how to best develop and implement the Warrior Web system.
DARPA seeks proposals in the following technology areas:
* Integrated advanced control systems across multiple joints
* Materials, fabrics, structures, sensors, sensor interfaces and human factors associated with developing conforming, assistive wearable technologies
* Technologies that significantly reduce the potential for acute or chronic injury of a wearer under typical warfighter mission profile situations
* Technologies that increase physical capabilities and/or endurance of humans during activities such as running, lifting, climbing, carrying a load, marksmanship, etc.
* Additional assistive wearable technologies for rehabilitation, physical therapy or those intended to help improve quality of life for the aging population
Tom Cruise wants exosuits for the movies
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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