It's no surprise that load-related injuries to soldiers in the field aren'tuncommon. Considering that many of these men and women are walking long distances for extended periods with more than 100 pounds of weight on their backs, the potential for both injury and exhaustion is great. However, DARPA hopes that its Warrior Web suit project can help lighten the load.
Although exoskeletons are being researched for similar purposes, they have so far been impractical in the field. The Warrior Web suit, though, is different: it's a light, flexible and soft suit that can be worn under a soldier's standard uniform and gear. The suit is designed to protect the body where it needs it the most, particularly in the joints and lower back. It would take stress off of those particular areas of the body and augment the work required by the body's joints and muscles, essentially making such work easier. DARPA believes the suit could result in fewer injuries, less fatigue, and more physical endurance. The current prototypes of the suit include technology that can quickly stabilize joints, transfer weight distribution, and kinetic sensing.
DARPA is now ready to go into phase B of the program and is seeking ideas on how to improve upon the Warior Web system, as well as how to best create and implement it. A meeting for interested parties is scheduled for Sept. 5, 2013. DARPA is seeking proposals on improving the existing technology of the suit, as well as discovering the best materials and fabrics to use for it. However, the agency isn't stopping there: DARPA is also interested in hearing from professionals about potentially using the suit for physical therapy and rehabilitation, including using it for senior citizens with limited mobility.
There are currently three prototypes of the suits currently in development, but DARPA hopes to have it narrowed down to one later this year.