Posts Tagged ‘Man Amplifier’

1917 – “Pedomotor” Steam-Powered Running Device – Leslie C. Kelley (American)

Kelley invents the "Pedomotor", or power operated walking or running device to facilitate the operation of pedestrianism or running operation. The "Pedomotor" will provide relief of muscles utilized during the running operation, and to increase the speed of the person. Although any type of motive power can be applied, Kelley describes a small steam-engine to be worn on the persons back. Artificial ligaments parallel the main muscle ligaments and are directly connected to the motive power source.

See full patent here.


Patent number: 1308675
Filing date: Apr 24, 1917
Issue date: Jul 1, 1919


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1934 – Wind-up Lower-extremity Walker – Cobb (American)

Cobb invents a walking structure that simulates the action of natural walking using mechanical means, typically for a person who has lost the use of their legs. Motive power is supplied by the operators arms driving a crank-wheel which in turn drives the legs in an oscillatory motion.  The same principles as applied to a doll are also described, but is powered by a clockwork motor.

See full patent here.


Patent number: 2010482
Filing date: May 26, 1934
Issue date: Aug 6, 1935

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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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1953 – “Creakyfoot” Power Suit – E.R. James (British)

In the Cute Fun Album for 1953, the story 'Champion Robot' by E R James features totally enclosed eight foot high powered suits for use on farms and in factories. The hero robot 'Creakyfoot' belongs to a boy, Andrew, who climbs through a door in its back into 'the soft cushioned space inside. Creakyfoot fitted him like a suit of clothes. As the door closed behind him he looked out through the robot's big glass eyes…The metal man became alive as Andrew's legs began to walk. The metal legs strode forward, driven by the robot's own great power, but following each small or large movement made by the boy inside.'

Andrew did not have position or load sensors attached to a master exoskeleton, but 'The mighty metal arms lifted as Andrew lifted his arms inside them. The blows of the steel fists had all the power of the robot behind them, but it was Andrew's brain that directed their aim. They worked together.'

See the full pdf here  .

Thanks to David Buckley who identified "Creakyfoot" in Champion Robot, Ernest Rayor James' 1953 story on the idea of a human-operated robot being published prior to Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers power suits in 1959.

Further, I add an extract from an article published by Parallax on how Creakyfoot kicked-off David's interest and career in robotics.

How I Got Started in Robotics by David Buckley

David Buckley is the master of the tilt/stride walking robot design.
When Parallax began plans for Toddler Robot, they consulted with David Buckley, adapting one of the most unique and servo simplified walking mechanisms in the history of hobby robotics!
When I was very young, two of my Birthday/Christmas presents were books with robot stories. One had huge robot warriors with death rays shooting from their eyes. They were tied in with 3-inch high robot toys on sale which I could never persuade my mother to buy; and the other was much more exciting. The robots were what we would call exoskeletons. Humans climbed inside and the 'robots enabled them to do heavy lifting. The story was called Creakyfoot, a boy had his own worn out robot which eventually won a race and was refurbished. Shortly after, in a comic, there was a picture story with a giant steam powered humanoid robot attacking a castle. This enthused me to build my first meccano robot – no motors, no gears, it didn't move! But it looked like a humanoid robot and I remember telling them at school that if I had a few gears and a motor I could make it walk. I was about 9.