Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Man-Amplifier (1966)

The 1966 book Bionics: Nature's Ways for Man's Machines by Robert Wells has some great pictures of the "Man-Amplifier." Even after reading about it I'm still confused as to how this contraption helps lend greater strength to one's muscles.

This Man-Amplifier helps the pilot or astronaut encumbered by a clumsy and tiring space suit. Strapped to the man, it is a metal skeleton with electrical motors at important joints. These motors follow the man's body movements, operating when he moves, stopping when he stops - thereby lending greater strength to his muscles.

See also:
Journey Into Space (TIME Magazine, 1952)


Anonymous said...

I believe that NASA and DARPA experimented with a similar arrangement to this for years but came up against one fairly fundamental problem: the exoskeleton couldn't differentiate between deliberate movements and accidental ones.

It would all be fine while the users movements were slow and controlled, but as soon as something accidental was amplified, it became impossible to control.

The human body on its own can react quickly to stop us from falling/hitting/breaking things. But a hulking suit of electrical motors just wasn't responsive enough. And of course all that metal meant it could do some serious damage! I think we might still be some way from a 'Ripley' suit.

Anonymous said...

They totally have this now. The more things change...

. said...

Yeah, the Japanese have developed this. So has DARPA finally. It's anyone's guess who copied who.

Anonymous said...

There's also the BLEEX system,, which was developed at Hamayoon Kazerooni's lab in Berkeley. It's apparently commercializable now, and from all accounts pretty robust.

Kazerooni's been working on a full exoskeleton since at least the 90s: I saw some photos of the arm in action which were pretty impressive, but I've no idea how far they've gotten on the full suit.