Some of our favorite exoskeletons have been used as alien squishers and supervillain defense aids, sure. But some of the best we've seen are decidedly nonfictional. We detailed both categories in our podcast episode I Am Iron Man. Given that visuals don't come across very well in the audio format, we wanted to share the glee of watching these machines in action.
Exoskeletons for the heck of it:
Team Skeletonics makes human-powered suits for recreational consumer purchase in Japan. You can check out a long demo from Maker Faire Tokyo 2013 (including footage of how a driver gets into the suit), but our favorite Skeletonics video is a walk in the park:
Although Sagawa Electronics used a very similar mechanical design with added motorization, the demo video for their Powered Jacket MK3 is. Uh. Different:
Industrial and military exoskeletons:
Cyberdyne is developing their HAL series of suits for several industrial fields, including disaster recovery, rescue and medical caregiver assistance:
Meanwhile, the Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) was created expressly for military use -- Lockheed Martin led development. Our friends over at Discovery's Military Channel have a short documentary piece about the HULC: The Science of the Elite Soldier. The Berkeley Robotics and Human Engineering Lab also had a hand in its design. You can watch more videos of the HULC in action on their site.
Berkeley's in-house, multipurpose load-carrying project is the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX). Check out that link for a few videos.
And, OK. All of these real-world creations are awesome. But even in the real world, SHIELD still has an impact. Clark Gregg (who plays Agent Phil Coulson in the Marvel Comics Universe films and shows) spoke with the folks at Raytheon about their XOS 2 suit:
This category tends to receive more widespread press coverage. Reuters/the BBC did an excellent piece on LOPES - that's the Lower Extremity Powered Exoskeleton from the University of Twente's Biomechanical Engineering Laboratory. Watch it here.
Researchers at Vanderbilt's Center for Intelligent Mechatronics created their own powered lower-limb exoskeleton for paraplegics. Here, a patient tests it out on a few flights of stairs:
The eLEGS by Esko Bionics are similar, but untethered and a little sleeker. A patient demonstrates a short walk: