The push to create tech-enhanced super soldiers is speeding up alongside the development of military drones and even humanoid robots. But a new development offers a glimpse at a kind of human enhancement that might affect everyone from soldiers to police officers and even construction site workers.
Presented by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, the Soft Exosuit does away with the now common concept of putting humans in a rigid metal frame to bolster their strength. Instead, the Soft Exosuit uses hyperelastic pneumatic actuators located at strategic points on the wearer's ankles, knees, and hips to give the person an extra performance boost. Covered in flexible membranes, the suit essentially looks and functions like a set of artificial muscles.
Weighing just 7.5 kilograms, the suit's "motors" are powered by a back-mounted air compressor. Ultimately, the researchers want to embed the system in clothing in order to create easy to wear soft exosuit outfits for quick deployment. Once perfected, such a device could become an invaluable asset for military and law enforcement workers who could use the extra muscle without the slow, Robocop-style movements displayed by most exoskeletons in development.
The developers also see the suit as a tool that could one day give the elderly a few extra years of mobility and independence. You can check out a brief demonstration of the Soft Exosuit in action in the video below.