The Iron Man Future

Posted on February 17, 2010 by

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Calling all engineers to action – it is time to create some civil bots!

People wearing robotic suits on the streets of your town, just like Iron Man, may not be just a sci-fi-wet-dream. In fact, it may help with elderly care, reduce the impact of heavy lifting in manual labour and help people with physical disabilities.

For example, the HAL (not the HAL 9000 that created a mess in the Space Odyssey sagas, but as in “Hybrid Assitive Limbs”) are robotic exo-skeletons or a mind-controlled wearable machine  – enabling elderly and others with disabilities move around as normal. The HAL exoskeleton helps the wearer to carry out a variety of everyday tasks, including standing up from a chair, walking, climbing up and down stairs, and lifting heavy objects. An exoskeleton is a skeleton worn outside of the body:

An exoskeleton is an external skeleton that supports and protects an animal’s body, in contrast to the internal skeleton (endoskeleton) of, for example, a human. Some animals, such as the tortoise, have both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton.
Wikipedia

A robotic exoskeleton has also been created by Japanese researchers to allow nurses to lift patients effortlessly – and without damaging their backs. As described in New Scientist, a nurse weighing 64 kilograms was able to pick up and carry a patient weighing 70 kilograms.

A powered suit may help nurses carry patients. Image from Dr. Keijirou Yamamoto.

Other application areas, though slightly less humane maybe, includes military use, such as is also the case in the Iron Man movies, where powered exoskeletons may be be designed, for example, to assist and protect soldiers. However, this may also aid the survival of people in other dangerous environments.

Now, all we need is that power source which powers the Iron Man suit!

Robert Downey jr as featured in the movie Iron Man 2

Further reading:

Yamamoto, Keijirou: “Wearable Power Assist Suit”

Powered exoskeleton – Wikipedia

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