Transformer-like suit lets you lift 110 pounds -- with each hand

An Italian engineering company has created a robotic exoskeleton that gives wearers superhero powers. But this one has a weak spot that Crave's Michael Franco spots in an instant.

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The "body extender" from Italian engineering firm Percro. It could help disaster workers clear rubble and would make for a great game of Robot Wars. BBC video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

It lets you lift up to 220 pounds like you're lifting a baby. It has 22 different points of movement. And it makes you look a little like Optimus Prime. It's the "body extender" from Perceptual Robotics Laboratory in Italy. And it would make one hell of a Halloween costume.

The Percro engineers who invented the robotic exoskeleton say it's the most sophisticated wearable robot developed to date. They say it could be used to assist in disaster zones as wearers would be able to lift large pieces of rubble off people trapped by earthquake debris, though as of now, there's no word on when it will be available. The contraption lets wearers lift up to 110 pounds with each hand.

"It's a device that's able to track the complex movements of the human body, and also to amplify the force of the user," Fabio Selsedo from told the BBC.

Wearable robotic suits aren't new, of course.

Two years ago, Japanese company Cyberdyne (yes, the same name as the company in "The Terminator" that invents Skynet, which eventually becomes self aware and tries to wipe out humanity) unveiled its Hybrid Assisted Limb (HAL) power suit, which was modified to handle radiation to help out at disaster sites like the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown.

Around the same time, NASA unveiled work it was doing on the X1 Robotic Exoskeleton, which could be used to help astronauts stay strong in outer space or to help people with lower-body injuries to walk. More recently, 3D Systems and Ekso Bionics teamed up to 3D-print a bionic suit that helped a woman paralyzed in a skiing accident regain her mobility.

Last year, we saw a robotic arm, too, in the form of the Titan Arm, a battery-powered upper-body robotic arm that won the prestigious James Dyson design award.

But there definitely is something new and exciting here (aside from the robot suit itself, that is) -- using Led Zeppelin's rocking "Kashmir" as the soundtrack to the BBC video that shows the suit off. And if you watch closely enough, you'll see what I think is the only flaw with the suit: the big buttons on the back that say "arms" and "legs." You don't want to make it so easy for the Decepticons to shut the suit down.

 

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