Performance Improving Self Contained Exoskeleton for Swimming (PISCES)

Performance Improving Self Contained Exoskeleton for Swimming (PISCES) is an underwater supersuit under development for the military.

Peter Neuhaus and Jerry Pratt, at the University of West Florida's Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, have come up with the PISCES concept. Their lower body exoskeleton provides power for the fin.

(Performance Improving Self Contained Exoskeleton for Swimming ("PISCES")

...the potential advantages of biologically inspired approaches are considerable, including increased stealth (unlike propeller-driven devices, which produce a distinct signature, they are indistinguishable from background noise), natural interface (they form a transparent extension of the wearer’s body), and hands-free operation (they can be operated using only the lower body). With today’s components, a cruising speed of 1 m/sec is feasible with approximately 2.4 kg off-the-shelf silver-zinc batteries.

Fans of science fiction writer David Brin are not surprised by these developments; they remember the whale waldoes from his 1979 novel Sundiver:

...he touched a switch releasing the amplifiers on both Makakai's waldo and his own, then cautiously turned his arms to set the fins into motion. He flexed his legs, the massive flukes thrust back jerkily in response, and his machine immediately rolled over and sank.

Jacob tried to correct but overcompensated, making the waldo tumble even worse. The beating of his fins momentarily made the area around him a churning mass of bubbles, until patiently, by trial and error, he got himself righted.

He pushed off again, carefully, to get some headway, then arched his back and kicked out. The waldo responded with a great tail-slashing leap into the air...
(Read more about Brin's whale waldo)

The use of the word "waldo" is of course a hat-tip to Robert Heinlein's creation of the term in his 1942 novel Waldo.

Peter Neuhaus and Jerry Pratt also have a concept for an upper body underwater exoskeleton for swimming like penguins.

Read a bit more about Attack of the Super-Strength Cyborg Penguins; see also Concept designs for underwater swimming exoskeletons (pdf}.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/18/2008)

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