May 19, 2009 – Original Source: Raytheon Company
Raytheon Company’s research facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, is developing a robotic suit for the soldier of tomorrow. The exoskeleton is essentially a wearable robot that amplifies its wearer’s strength, endurance and agility. Reminiscent of super heroes depicted in comic books and Hollywood movies, the bleeding edge technology effectively blurs the lines between science fiction and reality. So much so, that Popular Science magazine recently likened Raytheon’s exoskeleton to the “Iron Man” depicted in the blockbuster movie of the same name.
Built from a combination of sensors, actuators and controllers, the futuristic suit enables a user to easily carry a man on his back or lift 200 pounds several hundred times without tiring. Yet, the suit, which is being developed for the U.S. Army, is also agile enough to let its wearer kick a soccer ball, punch a speed bag, or climb stairs and ramps with ease.
Dr. Stephen Jacobsen leads this project and the Raytheon Sarcos team. He sees his work as a combination of art, science, engineering and design. “People call it different things. Sometimes they call it inventing, sometimes they call it engineering. Sometimes they call it being a mad scientist. To us, it’s the process of getting together, understanding the problems, goals and then designing something to satisfy the need.” Development of the exoskeleton has been underway since 2000, when Jacobsen realized that if humans could work alongside robots, they should also be able to work inside robots.
Exoskeleton test engineer Rex Jameson echoes his boss’ commitment and says he has one of the best jobs in the company. “We get to write programs and we see them working on actual robots; that’s very exciting. As far as software engineering goes, this job is about as good as it gets.”