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Lockheed Knee-Stress Relief Device (breakingdefense.com)
116 points by smacktoward on May 18, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments

I see the original headline on this piece ("Lockheed Exoskeleton Gives Troops A Leg Up, Literally") has been neutered, one more casualty in HN's ongoing War On Good Headlines. Sigh.

The original one actually sounded like something that would be interesting to read, unlike the neutered version ("Lockheed Knee-Stress Relief Device", as of this writing), which sounds like a page out of an ergonomic supply catalog.

I know how sensitive HN is to clickbait, but it does a disservice to interesting articles to hide them behind labels that sound deeply, profoundly uninteresting.

Indeed–it's a strange outcrop of HN's no-fluff-worldview, in that it seems to consider all hints of creativity as detrimental to its mission.

In this case, it has surely come full circle. In an effort to avoid the original title's pun, it has replaced it with something that gives a completely wrong impression regarding the content. Indeed, as the article mentions, it "makes it sounds like a piece of molded plastic your insurance would refuse to cover".

Let's remember that "clickbait" once meant psycho-tricks like "You won't believe these 10 reasons why...". Newspapers have, since time immortal, used all sorts of literary devices in headlines. Indeed there are some publications where headlines are the only outlet for a bit of lightness. The economist, for example, is well-known for bone-dry articles in contrast to evocative headlines (and, sometimes, outright silly captions).

I have to disagree. When I come to HN I am looking for information density. Bad puns are a negative signal in that regard. "Knee stress relief device" sounds much more promising, and makes me think of Bruce Wayne.

:/ I read an article once and come back the next day and it's name has changed and open it again.

I have a friend who would basically get his life back if he could use something like this to allow him to walk normally.

I'm all for superhuman enhancements, and I know that defence leads research in many areas, but I can't help feeling a bit disappointed that my friend will likely never have access to anything like this.

My startup is building exoskeleton to help the disabled walk. Our aim is to make a much cheaper exoskeleton ($10k). But we are starting by building exoskeletons for children. Check out trexorobotics.com

Good luck with such a meaningful problem. I can only imagine what help in this space would mean for these children and their parents.

I wouldn't give up on it. I remember a few years ago the stories of people 3d printing prosthetic hands for $50...where the cost had previously been $30k+. I imagine that some ingenuity and determination could do the same here.

https://3dprint.com/2438/50-prosthetic-3d-printed-hand/ https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244608

Do you think affordability will be a blocker?

I'd expect such assistive devices to hit the medical market pretty much instantly once they are practical in terms of things like weight, cost and run time.

One problem is that you have to make sure that this device tries to rotate your knee around the same axis as your knee does, probably more so when used on people who already have weaker knees.

Because of that, I expect that fitting this to a body is a lengthy and, hence, fairly costly affair.

Telescopic arms and IR sensors feeding to the AI could potentially center the joins within a few steps without any human intervention.

I wonder how many parts could be 3D printed in a civilian/mass-market version to help with price? Obviously the army doesn't want to compromise anywhere in terms of durability considering the conditions they're working in.

3D printing doesn't help much to reduce prices for mass market manufacturing. And the materials that can be used in most 3D printers still aren't strong enough for applications like this. Milling, casting, and forging can generally produce stronger, lighter parts.

I think that's the idea behind http://www.cybathlon.ethz.ch/the-disciplines/powered-exoskel...

It's really heartening to see what's becoming possible for those with disabilities, but as other commenters say, the next challenge is making good solutions available.

A vaguely similar device is in testing at Lowes.


I didn't see any price. I give up, why won't you eventually be able to buy one? With an aging society, I'd bet someone makes a cheaper commercial one.

This is coming. It's more likely to get to the medical help first, though.

A 100 lb nurse needs a bit of assist to move a 300 lb patient out of bed.

Back injuries are terribly common among nurses and orderlies. Due to the increasing number of obese and immobile patients, hospitals are starting to use small cranes to lift them out of bed.

I can see it getting a lot of use in physical therapy before making it to consumers.

Making it affordable is hard but there are already companies out there that are designing the same thing for the medical device market.

I'm curious what takes up the majority of the weight in terms of what a typical soldier carries?

I'm guessing after some quick math that its not the water like I originally suspected but perhaps the armor and ammo but maybe not?

Average weight a British soldier carries in Afghanistan is 110lbs http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8...

As the threat facing British soldiers has changed so has the composition of body armour, which now consists of front, rear and side plates designed to protect soldiers from small arms fire and IED blasts but weighs around 40lbs. In addition to body armour, a typical soldier on patrol in Afghanistan will carry: a weapon (10 to 20lbs); radio, batteries electronic equipment (40lbs); water (10lbs); ammunition (20lbs); Javelin missile (25lbs). Soldiers will also be required to wear eye, groin, ear and knee protection as well as gloves and a helmet

I don't think all squaddies in a brick (fire team) carry a javelin from what I have seen they go on the back of the jackal or Coyote.

A USMC radio operator on a ground patrol with a plan to be out for less than a day and cover 20km will have radio batteries, a radio, flak jacket, 4 extra magazine, m4, smoke grenades, helmet, sunglasses, weapon cleaning kit, extra socks, 2 days of mre, probably 2l of extra water, poncho liner, rain jacket, gloves, extra socks. Others will have heavier weapons but less radio gear and two people will have ied jammers. Night vision goggles and a peq 16 plus extra batteries and grenades will depend on what they are doing. 60lbs or more is normal for a ground patrol.

It's really impressive to me that all that gear only weighs 60 lbs. That is so much stuff.

It's the other way around - all that gear is not as much as you'd like and 30kg is a lot of weight to carry on you most of the time :)

2l of water seems really low to me, unless that's just an emergency supply?

Soldiers (And other military members) are expected to be self-contained for the entire time they're in the field, with enough food, water, clothes and other gear to cover the time they're out and then some. When you're in hostile territory, you don't want to run out of anything you'll need, so many soldiers overpack.

That was the lesson of the movie Black Hawk Down. Many of the Rangers didn't take water, body armour, night vision etc because they thought it would be a quick in-and-out job.

How hard is it for a hoobiest to build something like this?

What's the hard part? Aligning to your leg? Powerful enough motors? Software?

It depends on how broadly you are willing to count as having made one. Super crude examples have already been made at home and can lift things. Power consumption and size are big issues but the largest one is that without really good software the person wearing it will have to fight against the exo-'suit' so much that normal movement will take more energy. One of the big improvements touted in the article is just that, the prosthetic got better software so that it predicted how the user wanted to move better.

I imagine the answer is yes.


Please don't do this here.

>> So if you can’t lighten the soldier’s load, and you can’t take it off him, can you make him stronger? Nowadays, the answer is yes: We have the technology.

Yeah, it's called a squat rack.

...and PEDs of course.

It's interesting to wonder if government special ops teams are encouraged or even required to follow doctor-prescribed PED cycles these days.

Yep, testosterone dramatically increases strength, almost eliminates recovery time, reduces the need for sleep and food to maintain muscle mass... the downside, you die at 50

I seriously doubt that assertion as testosterone is liberally prescribed to people my age (50s) to help with a wide variety of issues.

That's because natural test levels drop in old age, so TRT restores them to the former, youthful levels, between 200 and 1000 ng/dl. For noticeable benefits, enhanced athletes are generally blasting at 3000-4000 ng/dl, and that's just as a base for a complex and crazy strong cocktail of androgenic anabolic compounds.

My point is that PEDs really do take you to a different world physically, and there is zero - zilch competition between natural and enhanced athletes. When you are at that level, it's difficult to come off, go back to fatigue and weakness and small size, so you end up blasting for a decade and at that point your heart is the size of your head.

I always wondered that. It's not like they don't work.

Yah, you can do T, lift and get jacked but you can't grow more cartilage. Infantry life destroys joints.

there are compounds (deca, npp) that pretty much solve joint pain. It's unknown whether they actually stimulate collagen synthesis or just mask the pain, though

Maybe not currently, but the administration of "Pep pills" were not uncommon during Vietnam.


They still give (pilots at least) speed.

That's no longer true, at least in the US and at least officially. The only remaining "official" boost is Modafinil, which is much weaker (and none of the fun).

Yes the military is investigating performance enhancing drugs.


PED use in the military is rampant, even in support units that'll never see the outside of the US. For no particular reason than to be "macho".

HOWEVER, some teams will go the extra mile and take Amphetamines during deployment's to help with performance during ops.

It really doesn't hurt much with the ladies at the local base bars as well, I'm sure.

There are no "ladies" in those bars sir.

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