How Exoskeletons Will Work
The History of Human Augmentation
Warriors have been wearing armor on their bodies since ancient times, but the idea of a body with mechanical muscles appeared in science fiction back in 1868, when Edward Sylvester Ellis published a dime novel, "The Steam Man of the Prairies." The book depicted a giant humanoid-shaped steam engine that towed its inventor, the ingenious Johnny Brainerd, behind it in a cart at speeds of 60 miles an hour (96.5 kilometers per hour), while it chased buffaloes and terrorized Indians [source: Landon].
By 1961, two years before the fictional Iron Man was created by Marvel Comics, the Pentagon had actually invited proposals for real-life wearable robots. An Associated Press article reported on the quest to develop the "servo soldier," which it described as "a human tank equipped with power steering and power brakes" that would be able to fun faster and lift heavy objects, and which would be immune to germ warfare, poison gas and even heat and radiation from nuclear blasts [source: Cormier]. By the mid-1960s, Cornell University engineer Neil Mizen had developed a 35-pound (15.8-kilogram) wearable frame exoskeleton, dubbed the "superman suit" or the "man amplifier," that Popular Science magazine cheerfully predicted eventually would allow a user to lift 1,000 pounds (453.6 kilograms) with each hand. Meanwhile, General Electric developed plans for an 18-foot-tall (5.5-meter) device, the "pedipulator," that would carry its operator around inside [source: Cloud].Read Full Article