US military tests motorized exoskeleton for soldiers

US Army researchers are conducting a study on a pair of boots with a motorized mechanical structure. The aim is to create a kind of exoskeleton that can be used to optimize the performance of soldiers on site.

This project is part of the US Navy Research Laboratory’s efforts to implement AI to enable teams to survive and remain effective in complex environments. In fact, the Dephy Exoboot is designed to enable soldiers to walk long distances without risking fatigue while carrying heavily loaded backpacks.

An internal computer and built-in sensors

The device assists the user with the ankle joint while the user performs difficult physical tasks. Its operation is based on an internal computer and several sensors, the function of which is to collect information. Thanks to this system, the actuators integrated in it are automatically triggered.

According to Dr. J. Cortney Bradford, researcher at the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), this way of working will help save energy on tasks that require significant physical strength.

An internal computer and built-in sensors. Image credit: DEVCOM

Testing on a conveyor belt

In its current form, the shoe requires 40 reflection points on certain parts of the user’s body and 128 electrodes that are integrated into a kind of skull cap. The role of these components is to detect the soldier’s movements and to collect other parameters useful for the operation of the system. According to the researchers, it has already been possible to calibrate the performance of the exoskeleton. Proof of this is that users who put on the mechanical boots could walk on a treadmill for about an hour.

Major Luke Blum is testing the ExoBoot in a study that analyzes how humans and autonomous systems interact with one another. Photo credit Neil Adams

A full report by summer

“It will improve our understanding of how humans adapt to intelligent systems, but these signals also contain information that can be used to train the agent,” said Cortney Bradford, extolling her creation.

However, with the equipment still in the testing phase, researchers cannot currently say whether it can actually alleviate the physical strain fighters have to endure in the field. As a result, it is not yet clear whether the Dephy Exoboot can help soldiers deal with their stress. In any case, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command intends to deliver a report by summer to showcase the real capabilities of its intelligent exoskeleton.

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