If you've ever wished that you could have an exoskeleton that would let you crush your enemies just like Ripley in the classic science fiction movie Aliens, then Panasonic has your back. The company's robotic division Activelink, is planning to introduce two powered exoskeleton suits that are so clearly inspired by the Caterpillar P-5000 Work Loader from the movie, that they are even calling them Power Loaders.
Work on a large version that can carry up to 220 pounds has been underway for several years, but now Activelink is focused on a smaller version called the Power Loader Lite, which can handle about 120 pounds. The idea is that the suit will give people like nuclear plant and emergency workers extra strength in demanding situations, reducing the number of people required to do a task.
Power Loader Lite uses far fewer motors than the 22 needed for the original large version, making its energy consumption more manageable. Power is supplied by lithium-ion batteries housed in what essentially becomes the backpack once you're inside the suit.
Activelink sees the Power Loader Lite playing an active role in the cleanup at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where workers have to wear heavy radiation suits for protection while performing difficult work. Following that, Activelink plans to develop a special version of the Power Loader for use in space, and even a waterproof version for use in deep sea exploration.
Panasonic says that the Power Loader Lite will enter production later this year, with sales starting in early 2015. The price is expected to be under $5,000, which sounds pretty reasonable to us. Once the Lite version is in production, Activelink says that they do plan to pick up on development of the original large version, hopefully just in time for any upcoming alien invasion.