Friday, May 02, 2008

"ROBOTICS: Raytheon Exoskeleton brings 'Iron Man' to life"

The much-ballyhooed movie, "Iron Man," opens in theaters worldwide today (May 2), but the real "iron man" is already under construction at Raytheon Company (Salt Lake City, Utah). Raytheon's Exoskeleton project is the brainchild of project leader Stephen Jacobsen and is being funded by the U.S. Army. The project, according to the company, permits soldiers to don an Exoskeleton suit that amplifies their strength--enabling them to lift 200-pound payloads without tiring. The "Iron Man" exoskeleton being worked on by Robert Downey Jr. in the movie (left) is eerily similar to the real Exoskeleton (right) being developed at Raytheon. In addition to amplifying strength and endurance, Raytheon also claims its Exoskeleton can increase a soldier's agility--enabling feats similar to those demonstrated--courtesy CGI (computer-generated imagery)--by the "Iron Man" in the film. Raytheon's Sarcos team, which has been developing the Exoskeleton since 2000, has demonstrated its wearer performing feats of strength as well as agility, including kicking a soccer ball, working out on a punching bag, climbing up stairs and navigating rough terrain. As the ultimate mechatronics realization, sensors follow the soldiers own movements, which microcontrollers then transfer to the actuators in the Exoskeleton. Jacobsen's stated goal is to create an Exoskeleton suit that enables humans to "work inside robots" instead of just alongside them.