We all love a gripping moment in a film, take Iron Man for example. One of the most popular scenes shows Iron Man in flight rescue passengers blown out of an plane following an explosion. This is only capable due to the “Suit” or Exoskeleton he’s wearing that he’s intelligently created.
An Exoskeleton is a rigid external covering for the body which may aid the user, whether that be support after a spinal cord injury or a wearable robot that allows the wearer to lift 10 times as much as they normally could.
This may all sound very futuristic but Exoskeletons are currently being used in hospitals and the technology is progressing to incredible lengths.
The earliest instance of an exoskeleton can be found in 1960, powered by hydraulics “Hardiman” was used in the Armed Forces, this made lifting 110 kilograms feel like lifting 4.5 kilograms. Due to limitations and the overall weight of the unit it was deemed impractical for use in the industry.
In recent times the Exoskeleton has not only progressed in terms of minimizing weight by using aluminium alloys but also in the technology its used for.
The Hybrid Assistive Limb or HAL is currently used in Japanese Hospitals, this full-body exoskeleton is for the arms, legs and torso. The HAL suit registers signals through a sensor attached to the skin of the wearer and enables the user to lift 10 times what they normally could, ideal for use in disaster response work and construction.
The eLEGS is another current Exoskeleton being used in hospitals that aids paraplegics to stand and walk with crutches or a walker.
Dreams of running around in exoskeletons being able to move faster, jump higher and hit harder are no longer fantasy but a hidden reality right now.
Currently under development a company is manufacturing exoskeleton bionic devices that can be strapped on as wearable robots to enhance the strength, mobility, and endurance of soldiers and paraplegics.
Researchers believe that in just 5 years Exoskeletons will be seen on building sites for construction and many hospitals for medicine and rehabilitation. Shortages of medical professionals means this technology could be used for enhanced precision during surgery and with the increasing number of people in elderly care exoskeletons have been designed to help nurses lift and carry patients.
The possibilities are seemingly endless and potentially you may start seeing Exoskeletons being used in sports.
So, what does the future have in store for us regarding Exoskeletons?
Only time will tell.