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Adventures in Engineering
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-05-21 22:02
  Subject:   Sarcos's exoskeleton is cooler than your exoskeleton.
Public
Although fiction has outpaced real life, participants in the exoskeleton project believe advances in power generation, microprocessors, and control technologies are finally bringing the dream within reach. "I truly believe that in five years, we will be there," says Homayoon Kazerooni, director of Berkeley's Human Engineering Laboratory. Still, even optimists like Jacobsen recognize the magnitude of the challenge. "There are large technical hurdles at every level," he says.

The main problem is power. Actuators — the robotic equivalent of muscles — must be strong, efficient, durable, controllable, and quiet, none of which is easily accomplished. [...] With most [actuators] "there's a dirty little secret in the next room," says Jacobsen. "Electrical stuff has a big generator somewhere. Hydraulics has a hidden motor and pump. With this machine, you don't get to have that dirty secret." The key to success, he thinks, is to find a way to emulate the efficiency of muscle tissue: "Muscle is so damn good at this stuff. If you took all of the muscles off of a healthy adult male and put them in full contraction, they would lift 20 tons. And they run on carrots."


http://www.discover.com/issues/feb-02/departments/feattech/
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