Cyberdyne. For Real.

I was checking in with slashdot this morning and I came across an eerie video that I am compelled to share. Now you too can gaze at your screen in bemused horror for a few minutes.

Meet HAL 5, the new robotic exoskeleton from Cyberdyne Inc. (Not Cyberdyne *Systems*. Stand down, Connor.)

Why you would name both your corporation and your latest product after fictional Artificial Intellegence systems that go a little haywire and decide to kill humans is beyond me...
When I was a kid, I read about exoskeletons that give the user super-human strength in Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers.  (Heinlein was a U.S. Naval Academy grad, but he never served in combat.)  In the book, the troopers train and fight in powered armor. 

Then, when I was at MIT and looking into transhumanism and augmented human strength as a possible thesis topic, I ran into the biomechatronics research lab. The MIT lab currently has a leg exoskeleton that augments leg strength and increases the carrying capacity of the wearer, just like the one shown in that video.

It seems too fantastic to be true--a lower limb exoskeleton could extend the mobility of older folk, or individuals who have lost their ability to walk because of disease or disability.  It could increase the stamina and strength of anyone.

So I decided to look a little closer.  The catch, at least in the case of the MIT exoskeleton, is finding a way to make the exoskeleton energy efficient. Finding a way to make it easy to wear and move in. According to this paper (pdf), a number of the exoskeletons that already exist require a lot of power to operate, which means frequent refueling or recharging. The biomechatronics lab group worked on something called a quasi-passive exoskeleton that uses springs and dampers to make the exoskeleton mimic the efficiency of a human leg.

There's your futurist moment for the day.

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