Exoskeletons have fascinated us at least since the first two Alien movies in which Ellen Ripley commands a power loader robot.
More recently we may think of Tony Stark as Iron Man wearing robotic suit. NASA said that it uses the same idea, albeit with a different intention. The X1 robotic exoskeleton won't lift heavy cargo boxes and it won't provide superpowers. Instead it is intended to be an exercise device for astronauts in space.
The X1 is worn over the legs and is tied to a harness that stretches over the shoulder of a person. There are motorized joints at the hips and the knees, and passive joints that allow for sidestepping, turning and pointing, and flexing a foot. The total weight is about 57 pounds. For now, NASA envisions the X1 to be a device to keep space crews in good shape while on extended missions to an asteroid or possibly to Mars.
However, the model could also work down here on Earth, NASA said, and help individuals to walk. "It's exciting to see a NASA-developed technology that might one day help people with serious ambulatory needs begin to walk again, or even walk for the first time," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program. "That's the sort of return on investment NASA is proud to give back to America and the world."
The X1 exoskeleton was developed by NASA in collaboration with The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition as well as engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems in Houston.