Raytheon shows off “Iron Man” exoskeleton


Ok, it isn’t bullet-proof and it can’t fly but Raytheon’s Sarcos Exoskeleton can carry 200lb and is agile enough to climb stairs.

It isn’t really practical yet and appears to be connected to power and computer via a thick set of cables but they have come a long way since they started on the exoskeleton in 2000.

My guess is that in about 10 years we will see these deployed with our military – not as laser wielding Terminators but as cargo loading assistants as in the movie Aliens.

(large photo gallery at raytheon)

TEWKSBURY, Mass., May 2, 2008 /PRNewswire/ — Raytheon Company’s (NYSE:
RTN) newest research facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, is developing a
robotic suit for the soldier of tomorrow.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080502/NEF052 )

Known as an “Exoskeleton,” it is essentially a wearable robot that
amplifies its wearer’s strength, endurance, and agility. In its May issue,
Popular Science magazine likens the Exoskeleton to the “Iron Man”(R) in the
movie of the same name and suggests a blurring of the lines between science
fiction and reality.

Made of a combination of sensors, actuators and controllers, the
futuristic suit enables a test engineer to easily carry a man on his back
or lift 200 pounds several hundred times without tiring. Yet, it is agile
enough to play soccer and climb stairs and ramps without issue.

The suit is being developed for the U.S. Army. Dr. Stephen Jacobsen
leads Raytheon Sarcos and this project. He says his work is a combination
of art, science, engineering and design. “People call it different things.
Sometimes they call it inventing, sometimes they call it engineering.
Sometimes they call it being a mad scientist. To us, it’s the process of
getting together, understanding the problems, goals, and then designing
something to satisfy the need.”

Development of the Exoskeleton has been underway since 2000 when
Jacobsen realized that if humans could work alongside robots, they must
also be able to work inside robots.

Exoskeleton test engineer Rex Jameson echoes his boss’ enthusiasm for
his work. “As far as software engineering goes, this job is about as good
as it gets. We get to write programs, and we see them working on actual
robots; that’s very exciting.”

Jacobsen and his team seek inspiration for their work from a wide
variety of disparate sources including popular culture. Asked if he will
see the “Iron Man” movie when it is released May 2, he replied: “Yes, sure.
I go to see all those movies. We all do. We all like them. They’re fun.
They stimulate your imagination.”

Raytheon Company, with 2007 sales of $21.3 billion, is a technology
leader specializing in defense, homeland security and other government
markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 86
years, Raytheon provides state-of-the art electronics, mission systems
integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and
command and control, communications and intelligence systems, as well as a
broad range of mission support services. With headquarters in Waltham,
Mass., Raytheon employs 72,000 people worldwide.