NASA develops robotic exoskeleton for space

NASA has created a new robotic space technology, following on from its work on Robonaut 2.

NASA has created a new robotic space technology, following on from its work on Robonaut 2.

We've seen robotic exoskeletons before — the US military, for example, is working on the tech — but we have to admit, we think space exploration a much better application.

The X1 exoskeleton, developed jointly by NASA and the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), can be worn around the user's legs to either assist or inhibit movement. It weighs approximately 25 kilograms, but in zero gravity, that won't matter much.

So, why would you want to inhibit movement? In zero gravity, astronauts can't use their muscles the way they do on Earth, since they are not required to support the body against the pull of gravity. This causes atrophy, so making sure that astronauts exercise is pretty important. When the X1 is inhibiting movement, it is applying resistance that the wearer has to work against.

The X1 has four motorised joints — two at the hips and two at the knees — and six passive joints to allow for a fuller range of movement, such as stepping sideways and turning. A harness clips over the wearer's shoulders, from which a pack might be hung.

But its applications are not limited to off-planet. The IHMC is looking at further developing the X1 as an assistive technology for the movement impaired, such as paraplegics, helping them to regain the mobility they have lost.

Watch it in action in the official video below.

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