The U.S. Military is Buying a Brutal-Looking Powered Exoskeleton
They give its wearers "the strength of a forklift but a gentler touch."
The Guardian XO
It looks a bit like a cross between Iron Man’s suit and Ripley’s Power Loader from “Aliens” — and while it won’t kill the alien queen quite yet, it does give its wearer super strength.
American robot developer Sarcos Robotics announced today that it’s been awarded a contract by United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to deliver a pre-production, full-body robotic exoskeleton called the “Guardian XO.” And it looks absolutely brutal.
The deal is the latest sign that the Pentagon sees promise in Sarcos’ tech. Earlier this month, the company announced a partnership with the U.S. Navy to evaluate the feasibility of using its full-body exoskeletons to “optimize shipyard operations.” A separate contract with the U.S. Air Force was signed in August 2018 for “logistics applications.”
The partnership could greatly enhance the productivity of a single officer in the field and decrease fatigue or strain — but the USSOCOM didn’t reveal the exact intended use case for the exoskeleton, which lets the wearer heft 200 pounds (90 kg).
It’s the latest sign that exoskeletons are finally hitting the mainstream. Automobile manufacturers are already considering the use of simpler exoskeletons on factory floors. And the Food and Drug Administration approved a lower-body exoskeleton last year for use by people with lower limb disabilities.
A February press release described Sarcos’ exoskeleton as giving its wearers “the strength of a forklift but a gentler touch.” The XO could be used anywhere from factories and mines to construction sites.
Hot Swap Batteries
The Guardian XO is powered by an on-board battery and can be operated for up to eight hours — its rechargeable battery packs are hot swappable for even more power in the field.
Many exoskeletons of its kind had to be powered through a tether hooked up to a power source. Sarcos claims that’s what “held them back from commercialization” in a press release.
And Sarcos says that its battery tech has come a long way.
“The first prototype 10 years ago was hydraulically powered and drew 6,000 watts,” Sarcos’ chief marketing officer Kristi Martindale said. “Now it’s less than 400 watts of power for the whole suit.”
READ MORE: Sarcos wins another U.S. contract for Guardian XO full-body exoskeleton [The Robot Report]
More on exoskeletons: Exoskeletons are About to Walk Ford’s Factory Floors
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