Posts Tagged ‘Exoskeleton’

1967 – “The Ambushers” Man-Amplifier – (American)

The Ambushers (Movie) – 1967

When a government-built flying saucer is hijacked mid-flight by Jose Ortega, the exiled ruler for an outlaw nation, secret agent Matt Helm and the ship's former pilot Sheila Sommars are sent to recover it.
Once in Acapulco, Helm and Sommers get a tour by Ortega's frontman Quintana, through the brewery he operates. Sommers notices the the strange contraptions several workers are 'wearing' whilst loading beer barrels into trucks.

Quintana: "Fantastic, Isn't it? It gives the average man the strength of a giant.  It can handle a 1500 lb load.
………"Its controlled by Hydro-mechanical servo valves."  (All very much the specification of GE's Hardiman concept. You can see the orange-brown Hardiman concept models here.)

Along the way, they must deal with Ortega's henchmen, Francesca Madeiros (an operative for Helm's main nemesis Big O), who poses as a model and seduces Helm, an assassin named Nassim, plus a tough thug named Rocco.

Later, we see Sheila Sommers 'manning the man-amplifier' (the phrase sounds odd when Janice Rule is the operator!) rolling beer kegs like 10-pin bowling balls at Ortega to stop him from shooting at her and Helm.

Dean Martin …  Matt Helm
Senta Berger … Francesca Madeiros
Janice Rule …  Sheila Sommers
James Gregory …MacDonald
Albert Salmi … Jose Ortega
Kurt Kasznar … Quintana

It's not until 19 years later we see a similar plot line with Ripley and the Power Loader in Aliens (1986).

1959 – “Starship Troopers” Power Suits (Fiction) – Robert Heinlein (American)

Serialised in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction (Oct-Nov 1959) under the name "Starship Soldier".

Starship Troopers is a juvenile military science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, first published (in abridged form) as a serial in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (October, November 1959, as "Starship Soldier") and published hardcover in December, 1959.

The first-person narrative is about a young soldier named Juan "Johnnie" Rico and his exploits in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military unit equipped with powered armor

In addition to Heinlein's political views, Starship Troopers popularized a number of military concepts and innovations, some of which have inspired real life research. The novel's most noted innovation is the powered armor exoskeletons used by the Mobile Infantry.[24] These suits were controlled by the wearer's own movements, but powerfully augmented a soldier's strength, speed, weight carrying capacity (which allowed much heavier personal armament), jumping ability (including jet and rocket boost assistance), and provided the wearer with improved senses (infrared vision and night vision, radar, and amplified hearing), a completely self-contained personal environment including a drug-dispensing apparatus, sophisticated communications equipment, and tactical map displays. Their powered armor made the Mobile Infantry a hybrid between an infantry unit and an armored one.

Natural exoskeletons abound, encasing critters ranging from crickets to crabs. In more human contexts, robotic exoskeletons are most familiar from science fiction and comic books. In Robert A. Heinlein's 1959 novel Starship Troopers (G.P. Putnam's Sons), swift, merciless warriors in powered suits wreak havoc on their enemies with missiles and hydrogen bombs. To Heinlein, "the beauty of a powered suit [is that] you don't have to think about it. You don't have to drive it, fly it, conn it, operate it: you just wear it and it takes orders directly from your muscles . . . ."

Four years after Heinlein's book came out, Marvel Comics introduced the character Iron Man, a rich industrialist encased in a homemade iron exoskeleton that enables him to lift tons at a time, fire repulser rays, and even fly.

Heinlein possibly borrowed and expanded on the idea of self-powered space armor from E.E. "Doc" Smith's novels of the late 1930's. Possibly the specific idea of controlling it with negative feedback from the wearer's own movements is Heinlein's.  [To be confirmed – RH  2011]

E. E. Smith's Lensman series, (published from 1937 onwards), contains the earliest conceptualization of personal armour with both defensive and offensive capabilities for all environments. [To be confirmed – RH  2011]

Creakyfoot is a robot suit in a 1953 story called "Champion Robot" by E.R. James. Thanks David Buckley for indentifying this robot.

Standard issue battle armor in Joe Haldeman's book The Forever War (1974) is an exoskeleton using logarithmic force amplification.
Powered armor operated remotely by telepresence also feature in Haldeman's Forever Peace (which shares themes with the previous The Forever War but is not a sequel in terms of setting and characters).

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1971 – Naval Anthropomorphic Teleoperator (“NAT”) – Adamski (American)

Thursday; 14 October 1971
Naval Anthropomorphic Teleoperator (NAT) developed by MBAssociates, San Ramon, California, under a joint Navy-NASA-AEC contract. Slave arm and 3-D TV system mounted on Tripod. Exoskeleton master controller worn by operator (Donald F. Adamski) to the right in the photograph. 

Naval Anthropomorphic Teleoperator (NAT)
The kinematic arrangement is shown in Figure 3.2.2-7(c)[not shown] and the system is shown in more detail in Figure 3.2.2-8 above. It was developed by MBA over a nine month period under Navy funds administered by NASA/SNPO. It is an electro-mechanical-hydraulic-pneumatic hybrid 9 DOF man equivalent (dexterity, range of motion and strength) position servo controlled system incorporating proportional force feedback in the grip and step force feedback in the elbow. The master controller is a full motion exoskeleton. It was specifically designed for ordnance disposal and defuzing delicate submunitions. Contract design requirements included unusually smooth highly controlled dexterous action, the use of nonmagnetic materials, no radiated EMI, underwater operation, sandy beach and desert operation, high pantographic fidelity between master and slave, ruggedness and high reliability. Electric drives for this specific system were excluded on the basis of system reproduction cost, radiated EMI and magnetic materials. The exoskeleton is designed to readily fit 5 to 97 percentile men. It can be attached to a wall or chair.
The slave incorporates a semi-monocoque construction. As a consequence it is the first system capable of lifting more (20 lb. at any one joint) than it weighs (16 lb.). The grip is designed to accomplish extremely delicate and minute operations as well as handle spheres, cones and cylinders up to 7 inches in diameter and weighing up to 20 lb. The system further incorporates a design which readily allows the addition of a remote quick release for the claws and easy conversion to a reversible electric motor driven system (DC torque, gear reduction and ball screw actuator). Its kinematic arrangement (Figure 3.2.2-7(c) duplicates that of the human arm, except for the continuous grip roll beyond the wrist gimbal. Specifically designed for low cost in production WOK in quantities of 40 or more) using off-the-shelf commercially available components (where possible), the system has already established a new state-of-the-art in servo controlled teleoperator systems.
An interim performance demonstration was made for NASA, Navy, AEC and MIT personnel on 22 July 1971. Performance of the arm in grasping and lifting large 20 lb. test objects as well as threading a small household needle, handling raw eggs, removing and replacing nuts from bolts and replacing small electronic components from printed circuit boards, has earned the ARM the reputation of being the most advanced teleoperator system developed to date. The above tasks were done while viewing through a stereo TV system. The needle threading, trimpot adjustment and operational amplifier tasks could not be accomplished without the TV system stereo attachment.
Total system tests of the right arm were successfully accomplished in October 1971. These tests included sea water immersed operation at a depth of ~8m (25'), operation from -18°C (0°F) and 59°C (120° F), operation in sand storms. The dexterous tasks described above were repeated and more recently unlocking a padlock, removal and disarming a mock homemade bomb and defusing a buried (inert) standard mine were accomplished.

MBA used NAT in evaluation of teleoperator systems for NASA's then proposed Space Shuttle robotic arm.


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1978-9 – Mobile Suit Gundam (Fiction) – Yoshiyuki Tomino (Japanese)

Although inspired by Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" that had infantrymen wearing "power suits" that surround their bodies and amplify their movements, most of the Gundam mobile suits were of the "driveable robot" tradition, where operators sat in cockpits and manipulated levers and pedals.

The Gundam concept was developed in 1978, with the TV series first airing in 1979.

Mobile Suit Gundam statue erected in Japan.

A Mobile Suit Gundam poster

WHAT'S gundam by Martin Ouelette
From the magazine "MECHA PRESS"

To understand the story and "raison d'etre" behind gundam, one must go back nearly thirty years, to the early 1960's and the start of the Japanese "Giant Robots" animation show tradition, "TetsuYin28" being the first one. The base story being, 99.9% of the time, the struggle for power between good and evil in the style of bad guys attack Tokyo (seemingly the only city on Earth!), killing a scientist in the process. Following that, the son or nephew of the scientist in question climbs into the brand new giant robot (with a suitably noble name, of course!) the dearly departed had just completed (in time for the invasion, it goes without saying!). Then he quite simply saves the world from destruction, while reading the instruction book, nonetheless!
But Yoshiyuki Tomino, an experienced animation director, was convinced that Japanese animation had more to offer. According to Frederik L..Schodt in his introduction to "gundam MS I AWAKENING (the first of a three books series on gundam MS), Tomino was partly inspired by the 1959 novel by Robert Heinlein "Starship Troopers" when he created a brand new approach to the "robot shows" with "gundam Mobile Suit". The Mobile Suit consists of a giant piloted mechanical suit, or exoskeleton, sporting sophisticated armament. In Tomino's viewpoint, mechanical designers had to keep the limits of credibility and the laws of physics in mind while creating the designs. Named "mecha" or "Mobile Suit", these machines looked realistic and didn't have the "principal character" aura the robots before them had. Like the "mecha", the characters created for gundam were much more complex than the ones from the earlier animations. He innovated in introducing characters which couldn't simply be considered good or bad. An example of this being the relationship between Char Aznable and Amuro Rey.
The first "gundam MS" television series, in 1979, did not meet the rating expectations of Tomino at first, but ended up as "the" sensation of the early eighties in Japanese animation.

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1971 – 3-legged Walker – Grundmann & Seireg (American)

Shown above is the original three legged walking machine.

Contrary to above caption, the 3-legged walker was developed in 1971.

Van Derhei, Jack (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Volume 77, Number 2 (November 1972)

Sanborn, Steve
Everyone should walk,   pp. 8-9

During the 1971 Engineering Exposition people on this campus were exposed for the first time to a device we constructed under the guidance of Prof. Seireg of the Mechanical Engineering Department.
  This device was a three legged robot powered by compressed air. Actually it was not a complete robot but only the walking portion, just the legs.
  The mechanism was constructed to be a model, a mechanical analog of a walking human. It could have been built with only two legs rather than three, but since it weighed 260 pounds it would have damaged easily if tipped over. The third leg provided extra stability.
  Since this original prototype was constructed, a new two legged model has been built. The new model differs considerably from the prototype in many respects. The two legged model is powered by AC current rather than compressed air. Unlike the prototype, the present model is actually worn by a human. This was the goal of the design project, to create a device that would give a person that was unable to use his legs, the ability to walk again. The project is by no means completed. More work has to be done in designing and constructing the third model. Presently Jack Grundmann is testing and altering the second model so as to incorporate new ideas into the third mechanism.
As was mentioned, the first prototype was operated with compressed air. This model was consequently bulky and awkward. Model II is operated by what is described as a puppet system. Cables extend from cams, located in a pack, down the body to the individual joints in which they control. The pack is mounted on the shoulder of the person wearing the mechanism. Supports extend from the frame of the mechanism to the pack so that the heavy weight of the device is not felt by the wearer. Within the pack are the six cams that pull the cables causing the person to walk. These cams were designed to cause the joints to move almost exactly the way a normal human moves.
  Ultimately it is desired to make a system that will allow a person that can no longer use his legs to walk forward, backward, turn, sit, stand and walk up and down stairs. Also, the device should be cosmetic. This means that it should be possible to cover the mechanism and its suspension system with normal clothing apparel.
  Model II can only walk forward, Model III will be able to preform all these tasks. Model III will not be supported by bulky metal braces and tubes as were previous models. Instead, plastics and fiberglass will be incorporated as structural supports. To replace the bulky joints, electronic servo mechanisms will be employed. The use of electronics will allow a number of mini-programs to be place in a very small computer, carried by the person using the device. Each program would cause the mechanism to move, initiating the motions a human makes. The programs would be turned on and off by the person wearing the device. There would be one program for each sequence of movements such as walking or for sitting.
  Very little has been done in the past three centuries in the area of prosthesis. The plastic leg of today is nothing more than an adaptation of the wooden leg of the seventeenth century. It is unfortunate that the technology of today has not been applied sooner to help paralyzed people walk again.
  This attempt at the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering requires the encouragement and support of all people concerned with restoring the ability to walk to those who cannot.

Note: The exoskeletons mention in the text can be seen here.

See other early Teleoperators, Exoskeletons and Industrial Robots here.

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