In the span of less than a year, exoskeletons have moved from science fiction to reality. In the last few months, several research and developments groups have unveiled working prototypes of exoskeletons. One example is the Sarcos exoskeleton designed for military use; another is Honda’s robotic legs recently announced; third, Cyberdyne’s HAL exoskeleton from Japan is available commercially for citizens with medical needs at a price of a few thousand dollars a month. Recently, Lockheed Martin unveiled their own exoskeleton for the military. The Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) is under development for military use.
This is how Lockheed describes the titanium-made HULC,
The HULC is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance.
Soldiers wearing the exoskeleton can reach running speeds of up to 10 miles per hour and it only takes about 30 seconds to put it on or take it off. The company also claims that the HULC can assist in heavy lifting even when it runs out of power; I don’t know how that works but it sounds impressive. The exoskeleton can be enhanced with a number of accessories that permit soldiers to easily lift heavy weights including a swat ballistic shield.
The promotional video below showcases the exoskeleton and all its features. Future soldiers will certainly look very different compared to today going to war equipped with all kinds of state-of-the-art technology to assist them. I just hope that such great technologies will not only be used to kill others but also (or better yet only) help those who need them the most.