The future for augmented humans: ‘In five years you’ll see exoskeletons on the building site’

Visions of humans running around in exoskeletons able to move faster, jump higher and hit harder from films such as Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow are no longer science fiction but a hidden reality right now.

What started out as a military application helping soldiers carry large loads has spawned into applications in medicine, rehabilitation, construction and in the near future, possibly even sports.

“We see the world of robotics as having a giant wave of human augmentation coming right at it,” said Nate Harding chief executive and co-founder of Ekso Bionics at CES in Las Vegas. “People will be running faster, jumping further and grannies will be showing off their new hip exoskeleton.”

“It’s about wrapping a robot around a person”

Harding was speaking at a conference session discussing the future of robotics and brought with him a working exoskeleton that allowed a paraplegic man confined to a wheelchair, 22-year-old Shane Mosko from Connecticut, to simply stand up and walk stunning a hushed audience.

“It’s about wrapping a robot around a person,” explained Harding. “In the case of Shane, he’s able to get up and walk without assistance. We know it will have a very positive affect the long term health of people who are stuck in wheel chairs.”

The exoskeleton ran down Mosko’s legs to feet plates, powered by a small backpack and controlled partially through two walking sticks that were used to aid balance.

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