The HULC Human Universal Load Carrier exoskeleton from Lockheed Martin was announced last week. The robotic endoskeleton is designed to augment the strength and endurance of soldiers; it transfers the load to the ground using powered titanium legs.
Learn more about the HULC's capabilities in this video.
(Lockheed Martin HULC exoskeleton video)
The HULC is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance. An onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual. Its modularity allows for major components to be swapped out in the field. Additionally, its unique power-saving design allows the user to operate on battery power for extended missions. The HULC’s load-carrying ability works even when power is not available.
Fans of Fritz Lieber may recall the titanium exoskeleton he describes in his 1968 novel A Specter is Haunting Texas. In the story, a human being from a microgravity environment needs help supporting his body weight on Earth.
This truly magnificent, romantically handsome, rather lean man was standing on two corrugated-soled titanium footplates. From the outer edge of each rose a narrow titanium T-beam that followed the line of his leg, with a joint (locked now) at the knee, up to another joint with a titanium pelvic girdle and shallow belly support. From the back of this girdle a T-spine rose to support a shoulder yoke and rib cage, all of the same metal. The rib cage was artistically slotted to save weight, so that curving strips followed the line of each of his very prominent ribs.
(Read more about Fritz Leiber's titanium exoskeleton)
A much earlier reference to this idea can be found in a John W. Campbell classic - The Brain Pirates, a 1938 short story.
"We have those new suits rigged with atomic-powered lifting gadgets, so that'll protect us from the weight, if what our instruments say about that world's true..."
(Read more about atomic-powered lifting suits)
Lockheed Martin has plenty of exoskeleton competition; read about these other products:
Therapeutic Medical Exoskeleton Prototype
A therapeutic exoskeleton is under development at USC to help people with diseases like muscular dystrophy to amplify their strength, and to help with rehabilitation and physical therapy.