Power Pedal: The man-machine synergy effector

By | January 19, 2009

In 2008, exoskeleton technology was demonstrated by a few groups and technology companies as one advancement that will soon be used to enhance our lives. These exoskeletons are very powerful machines but must be controlled by weak human beings without hurting them. Finding the right balance or synergy between man and machine is no easy task. The man-machine synergy effector is a proposed theoretical system for regulating the power flow from man to machine and vice versa in order for the two-body system to complete tasks impossible tp be performed by only one of the two members.

Japanese researchers recently published the man-machine synergy effector at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA.) The same group also set out to demonstrate a realization of the concept via the construction of the Power Pedal exoskeleton. The exoskeleton can potentially increase a person’s power by a factor between 7 and 40 while being safe and intuitive to use.

Although the concept of man-machine synergy makes a lot of sense, the actual implementation of Power Pedal leaves much to be desired. As you can see from the video below, it is very difficult to control the machine. It truly fails to demonstrate how this exoskeleton is intuitive to use as the operator seems to make an enormous amount of effort to control it; other than the fact that the machine does not crash the operator, there is hardly any man-machine synergy demonstrated. I guess this is the pre-Alpha prototype and the next version will be vastly improved.