A new second-generation exoskeleton robotic suit developed for the military – and deemed the closest thing to a real-life Iron Man costume – was unveiled on Monday during a demonstration with Paramount Home Entertainment.
The new robotic suit called Exoskeleton (XOS 2) – released by Raytheon Company – is lighter, faster and stronger than its predecessor, yet it uses 50 percent less power. Its enhanced design also means that it is more resistant to the environment.
Raytheon is developing the robotic suit to help with the many logistics challenges faced by the military both in and out of battle. Repetitive heavy lifting can lead to injuries, orthopedic injuries in particular.
Instead, the XOS 2 does the lifting for its operator, reducing both strain and exertion. It also does the work faster. One operator in an exoskeleton suit can do the work of two to three soldiers. Deploying exoskeletons would allow military personnel to be reassigned to more strategic tasks.
"XOS 1 was essentially a proof of concept," said Fraser Smith, vice president of operations for Raytheon Sarcos. "With XOS 2, we targeted power consumption and looked for ways to use the hydraulic energy more efficiently. That's resulted in us being able to add capabilities while significantly reducing power consumption."
The suit is built from a combination of structures, sensors, actuators and controllers, and it is powered by high pressure hydraulics. It enables its wearer to easily lift 200 pounds several hundred times without tiring and repeatedly punch through three inches of wood.
Yet, the suit, which was developed for the U.S. Army, is also agile and graceful enough to let its wearer kick a soccer ball, punch a speed bag or climb stairs and ramps with ease.
"Getting exoskeletons deployed is inevitable in my view," Smith said. "They are desperately needed, and I believe the military looks at them as viable solutions to a number of current issues they are trying to address. With a sustained commitment, they could be in place within five years."