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Italian Researchers Demonstrate 'Powerloader' Suit 57

Sockatume writes "Researchers in Italy have demonstrated a powered exoskeleton that can lift 50kg with each hand, as demonstrated in a video with the BBC. The 'body extender' from the Perceptual Robotics Laboratory of the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa has been developed for applications like disaster relief, and is just one of many strength-augmenting systems being developed for use in rescue, military, and medical applications. Neither the researchers nor the BBC make the comparison to the Powerloader in the movie Aliens — but come on, look at it."
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Italian Researchers Demonstrate 'Powerloader' Suit

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  • by darkfuture ( 2613069 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @04:49AM (#46406065)
    Soon every construction site will have several of these. Imagine how this will change the building construction industry!
    Next we will see 20 foot high version.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In Finland.... Not likely much, as the equilevant amount of Estonian workers (~20 required to lift 100kg) will be cheaper!

      Just saying!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:50AM (#46407323)

        As an Estonian who has seen building activity, I can shed some light on how you need only 20 guys to lift that 100 kg. ;P

        2 bosses to negotiate the subcontracting and sip coffee at the site
        2 guys to bring everyone coffee and sandwiches
        6 guys with binoculars and radios to watch out for inspectors
        4 guys to run the used car business on the construction site
        4 guys to run the gravel and cement business on the site
        2 guys to lift 100 kg ;P

        Voila. ;P

  • only 50Kg? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SuperDre ( 982372 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @04:49AM (#46406067) Homepage
    what? a suit like that and only able to lift 50Kg per hand? Wonder when we'll actually see a real powerlifter like the one in Aliens, it shouldn't be hard to do a real one..
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Apparently it can lift 50kg with the arm fully extended outward. Doesn't seem so bad. What do you suppose the aliens power loader can lift?

      • Considering their size, all the heavy-duty supports in them and the fact that they're mostly used in cargo-bays one could assume that they're designed to lift at least a weight of one ton. Remembering the movie they were also surprisingly fast and nimble, but with totally rigid feet -- I can't remember there being anything the sort of toe-like structures or bend in the feet -- so they'd suit poorly for any sort of outdoors/rescue/whatnot missions, but could support heavy loads. It's all just guess-work, tho

        • The Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual suggests about 4 metric tonnes. Of course the same book concluded that the thing's not much more useful than an actual forklift. ;)

    • what? a suit like that and only able to lift 50Kg per hand?

      Strength, versatility, low cost.
      Pick 2.

      Requiring the hardware to conform to a human range of motion imposes serious constraints on what the designers can do.
      If the arms only have to move in the Y-axis, they could be engineered to lift much heavier loads.

    • Even olympic powerlifters would struggle trying to hold 50kg in one hand at arms length for long , if at all, so don't sneer. Its a prototype - once they've got the design details sorted I'm sure they'll ramp up the torque.

      • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @08:52AM (#46407007) Journal
        Too much torque in the experimental stage could lead to a grisly accident like the wearer's arm being ripped out of socket.

        These force multipliers seem like cool accessories, but the manned robot will likely present too many restrictions in efficacy.

        Look for this to go the way of manned space missions, at least for the foreseeable future. Cameras and remote operation, walker drones if you will, seem much more practical.

    • Re:only 50Kg? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @09:52AM (#46407343)

      50kg is still pretty damn heavy. Even a bodybuilder who lifts weights could not hold 50kg in each hand with their farm fully extended for more than a few seconds. You can't compare it to a forklift as forklifts simply lift things up and down. They can't easily lift things into place or position them at awkward angles. This suit can.

      But forklifts can lift a whole lot of weight for their size. The little lift at my work lifts 3000lbs/1360kg and weighs about twice that to counterbalance the load. Smaller, short wheel base forklifts are counterbalanced using large a large weight at the rear. Think about it, you have 1000kg on the forks and moving at around 8-10kmh and you suddenly need to stop. With equal balance the lift would tip forward. So the heavy as hell counterweight makes sure that doesn't happen as the weight behind the mast is way more then what is on the mast. If you look at the rear of any lift it looks like a thick chunk of steel and it pretty much is. I bought an old 4000 lb/1814 kg capacity Clark Y40 for scrap value and towed it home on a 5 ton trailer. Man that thing was H-E-A-V-Y, 7000 lbs/3175 kg heavy, I thought I was going to blow the tranny in my 1 ton van. The frame consists of two 30-35mm steel plates that make up the side of the body, a large cross plate and a counterweight at the rear. Everything else just bolts to that huge mass.

      So now that you have a good idea as to how stupid heavy forklifts are, the 100 kg lift capacity of a man sized suit appears much more sane for manipulating loads with precision and dexterity in a space constrained area. They are targeting the use for search and rescue but I would imagine such a suit could be used for any number of tasks which require one to repeatedly lift and maneuver heavy objects.

    • Watching the video I am guessing one of the challenges is managing the center of gravity of the entire system. It looked like there was a spotter in the background making sure it didn't fall forward when the load was lifted.

      The suit will need software similar to the Segway which keeps the center of gravity appropriately positioned. But Segway just needs to roll forward or backward a small amount to keep the center of gravity in balance...this suit will need to correct all of the joint positions in concert

    • Dude, it's from a *public university* lab in Italy, you know how things are around here? if they tried fitting more powerful stuff the principal would have stormed the room and made them pay the electric bill.

      JK - nice achievement, guys.

  • So, how long until Iron Man, now?
    • Re:Looks great (Score:4, Informative)

      by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @07:46AM (#46406691)

      a very long time.

      The power suit isn't the issue.

      power is the issue. there still isn't a decent way to power the thing without cables.

    • Sorry. What are those thiings he both flies around and shoots things with? Some form of ion engine? Somebody might be able to almost build it now. But.. the power source would be somewhere around a ton and he would be tethered to it. This very well may never change.

    • So, how long until Iron Man, now?

      Not long.

      Not long at all. At least, for something a bit less "sci-fi" (umm, "palm thrusters"?) but more practical for the real-world foot-soldier. []

      But soon there will be very little need for large numbers of (human) infantry.

      Atlas []

      Atlas rocky terrain and balance tests. []

      Robot soldiers that won't question, lie, or disobey orders.

      Every megalomaniacs' and oppressive police states' wet-dream.

      What could possibly go wrong?

      The only thin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nice, so now USA and Japan have another competitor in the race. :)

    Ok, it's not much of a race, but I won't be satisfied until I can get my own powered exosuit for grins & giggles. And mounting armor and 'weapons' on to take to a con with. I doubt it would win in a contest, there are some unbelievable cosplayers out there, but it sure would be fun. That and pranking people by moving their cars around in the parking lot.

  • by ( 595837 ) <slashdot.advid@net> on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @04:54AM (#46406093) Journal
    If the onboard electronic is rugged for arsh environments, adding some lead plates may be an idea to approach some areas in Fukushima plant.
    • by aiht ( 1017790 )

      If the onboard electronic is rugged for arsh environments, adding some lead plates may be an idea to approach some areas in Fukushima plant.

      Lead is good for shielding because it's dense, right? So maybe it would be better to use something even denser - uranium.

  • So it has 10 times the moving parts of a regular loader, but can lift less than 10% of the weight?

    I know these things look cool in the cartoons, but there's a reason we don't build construction equipment this way. Things like these will never be as practical as wheeled and tracked vehicles.

    • by r1348 ( 2567295 )

      Did you bother seeing the video? They explain this exoskeleton is thought for disaster relief, not construction.

      • What exactly would it do? It needs a power generator, which makes it a sizeable package to deploy. And what then could it do? Lift boxes? Forklifts do it faster and with greater loads for far less money.

        Clear rubble? Humans are more flexible and cost less for small pieces (50 kg) and for large pieces this suit is not strong enough (tons).

        It is a nice research project that might one day deliver usable tech. But it is not this day.

        • by r1348 ( 2567295 )

          Italy is an earthquake zone and this would work great for freeing people trapped under rubble, of course it's only a prototype, nobody is sending that on the field now, but there was also a point in history when horses were cheaper, faster and more efficient than cars, so you get my point.

          About the power generator: cables can run pretty long.

      • I did watch the video. You certainly can use a regular loader or mini-excivator for disaster relief, so I don't know what they were on about. It was more like they wanted to make a cool robot exoskeleton, and they needed to come up with an excuse for why you would even want the stupid thing.

        If they were really interested in disaster relief, they would be making attachments [] for compact loaders and mini-excivators, not ridiculous exo-skeletons that could never possibly be useful for that (or any other) applic

        • The implied purpose is as a testbed for designing the human-computer interfaces for robots, which is the research group's main job.

    • Because the tech isn't perfected yet. And I don't expect someone as blinked as you to have the vision to see it - but if fully flexible suit able to lift hundreds of kilos or even tons would be far more useful in a lot of work enviroments than some inflexible fork lft or mini digger that can't even climb a single stair.

  • ...would it be able to lift them?
  • no one is writing about it and we have to read it on bbc news. sad
  • by gatzke ( 2977 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @07:29AM (#46406629) Homepage Journal

    Dude, do you even lift?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Lifting those weights is easy for a reasonably strong, healthy individual.

      Doing it all through every work shift? Ha, no. Back trouble and drop injuries abound. It's not so much the power that's impressive as the tireless endurance.

  • Maybe their next invention could be a powered device that would help that guy keep his pants up. They could call it a "belt". o.O
  • "...that can lift 50kg with each hand..."

    Big deal. In "Kal e forn e yah" we had a governor which could do that.

  • Get away from her you BITCH!

  • 1. Power supply. This is currently a tethered suit which is useless in a non-laboratory environment..
    2. Actuator speed. All the movements are very slow. This means that it can not compensate for issues caused by unstable ground. Take this thing onto a rubble pile and it will be flat on the ground in minutes. Even on solid flat ground they do not have enough confidence to let it stand without a safety support rope.
    3. Limited movement. All we saw was standing in one spot, squatting slightly, reaching out and

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