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Hardiman I Exoskeleton (cyberneticzoo.com)
171 points by vmorgulis on May 30, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments

Made me think of Heinlein's story "Waldo" [1] which featured mechanical manipulators controlled by motions of the operator's hand and fingers. I thought, oho, this is where Heinlein got the idea! But no! "Waldo" was published in 1942. Perhaps inspiration ran the other way.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldo_(short_story)

Ah, I had always assumed Waldo was an acronym or initialism of some kind; checking wikipedia shows they are named after the Heinlein story you mention!

Is WALL-E named after him? I know that's an acronym for "Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class", but I bet it's no coincidence.

Oooh, interesting.

There's an episode of the TV show Black Mirror called "The Waldo Moment", which features an arrogant animated puppet that's entirely controlled by the motions of the operator's hand and fingers.

I reckon this bit was clearly a reference to the Heinlein short story.

Part of the problem was(and still is) that it didn't have very many good use cases. For the problem of moving heavy stuff around a forklifts, cranes, and carts performed much better. Not to mention the potential for serious injury to the user if they make a mistake or fall over.

An interesting thing to note WRT serious applications for exoskeletons is that they arguably offer greater potential as safety devices in the workplaces, essentially as a means to stop workers from over straining themselves, and also prevent repeated strain injuries.

I think realistically, heavy stuff will always be relegated to heavy machines. It'd be impractical in many cases to do otherwise. But to say that exoskeletons lack applications is a bit foolhardy (preventing workplace injury is a huge field waiting to be disrupted, for example).

Physical augmentation (via robotics) shouldn't just mean improving the physical condition, but also maintaining and promoting a healthy physical condition. This isn't something that is very well understood in the marketplace (both in the 60's, but also today). The biggest barrier for exoskeletons are still the exoskeletons themselves. I believe that until this idea is understood and reflected in the designs and implementation of exoskeletons, no progress will be made (in the field, and the market). Hopefully, this will soon change.

Disclosure: Work in the field (although currently for physically disabled patients, and not announced in the public domain).

I agree with you. I'm not trying to say that exoskeletons lack applications, just that the whole 'power-loader' concept is a bit silly. GE wanted the user of the hardiman to be able to pick up a 1.5 ton load and walk around with it. There aren't that many applications that require a 1.5 ton load to be 'walked around.'

And yes, the orthotics market for exoskeletons is very big, and largely ignored, one.

Over the last 9 months I have gained a new perspective on the matter of lifting heavy things. I decided to take weight lifting seriously, hired a coach and went for it. I am now dead-lifting 200 lbs (90 Kg) and squatting the same. If you saw me walking down yhe street you'd have no idea. By the end of the year I should be at 315 for the deadlift.

Before doing this I never imagined someone could look "normal" and move this much weight. I thought this was the domain of guys with huge muscles.

Anyhow, a long way to say that workplace injury could probably be averted with training.

I agree with the essence of your argument (and congratulations on the training).

I do, however, fear i might've brushed over the essential idea - rather than provide training, wearable's should provide constant 'feedback' if you will to the user, while also providing partial/full assistance to whatever the objective might be. To use an analogy, if you were to draw an imperfect curve, the wearable would 'smooth' out the curve as it was drawn - providing training as a side-effect (muscle-memory, if you will), but that isn't why it would be used (it would be used so you could draw better curves, and maximize your potential as an artist [or in reality, as a worker etc]).

I work with exos., so if you have any other questions, I can probably answer them.

90kg is not that heavy for a squat or deadlift. You need hardly any (visible) muscles for that (unless you are a very small woman).

I hope you keep up your progress! There's lots of it left.

As someone who got to a 90kg squat (and 100kg deadlift) in three months while still having the skinniest legs possible, I am amazed at how efficient muscles are while being tethered at the very end of a 1 meter lever.

I'm pretty sure that our quadriceps could lift a one-ton weight, if attached to it, if only a few cm. That's amazing to me.

The concept is as you hint, very much one of continued leverage to prevent reverse movement with constant micro gains in forward distance.


Very much a parallel process with the same kind of force multiplication as any gear ratio mechanical advantage. Quite marvelous what the simple ability to "stick" can be translated into. Tremendous static holds equals tremendous kinetic force :-)

Well, let me disagree. Lifting 90 Kg for someone with probably a decade of a lack of serious exercise due to sitting in front of the computer for 16 hours a day building a couple of businesses is a LOT. I used to swim and do martial arts. I got to a point where I couldn't recognize myself because of how out of shape I got. Not grossly overweight but just weak and with a serious lack of mobility.

Weight in the vicinity of 100 Kg, is dangerous to put on your shoulders or lift off the ground. It could put you in the hospital. Age is a factor, of course, I'm over 50. Yet, even for younger people, it's a dangerous amount of weight.

I purposely took it very easy. I devoted four months to very slow and careful general strength (machines), flexibility and mobility exercises. Also added cardio. The idea was to get a little injury-proof before starting down the path of more serious lifting.

Having said that, now that I am on a roll I see making significant gains over the months ahead. Carefully and safely.

We agree in spirit: it's not how much you lift right now, but that you make progress. Safety is a big part of that: you can't make no progress when you are injured.

I started lifting when I took my first desk job at age 23 and was noticing how lazy and weak I was becoming. Of course, at that age you can go much harder than at 50 years.

I regularly deadlift and squat above 150kg, which I achieved in the first two years. (I admit I got lazy, so I'm not progressing as fast anymore.) I weigh around 70kg. (Best ever was 170kg squat, and 160kg deadlift. My grip sucks.)

I would advise against using machines. They are not ergonomic, because they force your body into their path, and don't train the smaller stabilizer muscles. (Having said that, machines are better than not doing anything.)

Good luck with your future gains! Remember to eat enough (in case you are one the skinny side now).

Weight lifting is great if you just want to make some quick gains in a very straightforward way. I also enjoy rock climbing and gymnastics. Have you tried either of them? (Gymnastic rings are pretty cheap off Amazon. Slacklines are also fun, and cheap. But you need a park nearby with some trees.)

For light cardio, ballroom dancing is great---if you enjoy the social aspect.

(By the way, I managed to coax my girlfriend at the time into lifting, she weighed around 60kg and managed to pull 100kg in a deadlift after a few months. She was already into rock climbing for a year before she started lifting, but no other exercise to speak of.)

I stopped using machines back in December. They are a complete lie.

I'm progressing at a rate of about 5 to 7 Kg per week, haven't hit the asymptotic portion of the gain curve yet.

I plan on re-incorporating swimming into my routine in a few months. For now I am focusing on lifting.

Is your startup similar to ExoAtlet? http://www.exoatlet.com

Some dozens of them are currently being tested in Russian hospitals.

Not quite - the technology and approach taken are essentially very new developments in the field, in general to avoid pitfalls of current/past state of the art. Since exoskeletons should be useful to humans, they should probably be designed like humans, and move like them too. This is our philosophy, and for this and many other reasons, the approach we've taken is distinctly different and very new.

Our objective is to give users uncompromising levels of mobility. We hope to begin private trials within the next 1.5-2 years.

Human beings are the best general purpose machines in the universe. We can handle an egg, and in the next moment power-lift 500 lbs, we can walk up a mountain, or slide down a hill, we can swim the bottom of the ocean or jump out of a plane.

I think exos shine in one-off situations, where it is too costly to build a specialized machine; or where many abilities and specialized machines are needed to accomplish the task.

Simple, repetitive actions will almost always be better handled by machines.

The use-cases exos will be good for are likely not any that are currently solved by individual machines. They will be for new actions previously not feasible, or to replace a set of actions being accomplished with a bunch of machines, for cheaper.

I think the idea is bigger than the implementation though: With enough research it could be scaled down in size and price enough to be something you keep in your closet. If everyone had these, tasks like moving furniture, or other large loads would be much easier for the average person.

Why would they design it such that the human hand goes into the mechanized hand? Because then if something causes failure, say by lifting something too heavy, the human hand is also injured. I would want to see a design that keeps the human operator safe. Same comment on many existing exoskeleton designs.

I was going to write pretty much the same thing. How comfortable would any of us be reaching our arms deep into a large piece of operating hydraulic machinery? It would take only a small bug to contort your arm into a position that your bones won't allow, and anything capable of lifting 1.5 tonnes can easily rip your arm off. I wouldn't want to test drive v1.0 of the aliens power loader. Or any other version that ends with ".0"

The diagrams show that the human hand ends up in the "wrist" of the robotic arm. If that is too close for comfort then you could go with a fictitious MSDF Type 303 from gits [0]. But I'd rather have my arm in the load bearing, and therefor strengthened, robotic arm - for both safety and spacial awareness sake.

[0] http://ghostintheshell.wikia.com/wiki/Armored_Suit

probably because they wanted to build a system with no learning curve.

I see your powered exoskeleton, and raise you a walking truck:


Looking at this, the one thing I see is a person "fighting" a machine that's encapsulating them.

If we're going to interpret and strengthen moves we make, it might be smarter and safer to leave the interpretation of movement out of the suit. So wear a light, easy-to change into/out of suit with sensors, that controls a machine in front of you. Also saves space as you won't have to make space for a pesky, fleshy, squishy human.

(Just thinking out loud here)

This is definitely an application for VR. You are rigged up in a room somewhere, and you become a gigantic robot building a ship or a bridge or something elsewhere.

You can read a news release from MIT about such an endeavor here:


The limiting factor remains not the human, so much as the hardware and software design bottlenecks.

Wait, was the Aliens' exoskeleton used by Ripley and other Marines based on that prototype ? It looks very similar in some of the concept art. See: http://www.mwctoys.com/images/review_loader_1.jpg

Years before Sarcos corporation got bought, they had working haptic whole-arm interfaces attached to outsized hydraulic arms. There used to be Real video format files on their site of things like a teleoperated giant arm casually holding an anvil like it was a beer mug.

There was webpage of historical haptics research up somewhere. They've had research hardware since the 70's. I remember one discussion at the Houston hackerspace, where such devices were falsely "debunked" based on bandwidth/processing requirements. {facepalm}

All I can think of when seeing this is that the animated gif looks exactly like a Power Fist from Warhammer 40k, and that the rest of this looks like some of the original e-frames from Exo-Squad when they show the scenes of how e-frames first originated.

Powered body suits can't come fast enough in my opinion. Outside of war, there are just so many uses for enhanced strength and the sheer flexibility something like that allows for tools, dexterity, working with electrical or extreme temperatures, etc.

I can wait for the kinks to be worked out, so that a software error doesn't result in my arm being yanked out of its socket.

That "Walking Truck" is very similar to Big Dog, at least in appearance.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] - Server getting overloaded? - A backup copy: https://archive.is/HhXbI

Exoskeletons will be huge, huge, huge as the baby boomer generation get older and more frail. This is why Japan is already far ahead in this.

Would definitely not comb my hair or scratch my back with that thing... :p

That made me laugh

The HN hug of death strikes again

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