The exosuits from ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ aren’t fictional anymore

The term “exoskeleton” conjures up sci-fi scenes – think Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, or Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt battling aliens on repeat in Edge of Tomorrow. Soldiers will surely man these mechanical machines someday, but many of the first exosuits will be developed for civilian use, from first responders pulling through rubble to laborers who could use a little extra support for their heavy lifting.

By 2020, robotics company Sarcos hopes to see workers climb into its line of fully-powered exoskeletons, designed to give people superhuman strength and endurance, while allowing them to repetitively lift large objects and minimize risk of injury. The company demoed some of its machines at its headquarters in Salt Lake City last week.

“We’re focused developing robots to augment human safety and productivity,” Ben Wolff, CEO of Sarcos, told Digital Trends. “This idea that we’ve got the ability to have a human either wearing or remotely operating a machine so that there’s always a human mind engaged in the decision-making process that is then instructing a robot that is stronger, with more stamina and greater precision, doing the real work.”

Sarcos plans to offer three exoskeletons over the next few years, each giving wearers a different degree of strength and endurance support. The Guardian XO will let wearers lift 80 pounds, the Guardian XO Max will max out at 200 pounds, and the Guardian GT — a monster of a machine with seven-foot arms — will handle upwards of 1,000 pounds. Both the GT and XO Max can be controlled by an operator who is either remote or riding in the machine.

To keep wearers safe, the Salt Lake City company has developed a patented system it calls “get out of the way control,” which will make sure the suit doesn’t accidentally squish a person inside.

“The suit and your body interact like two opposing magnets.”

“Imagine the suit and your body interacting with one another in the way that two opposing magnets would,” Wolff explained. “Through its sensor system, the suit is programmed to maintain a very small but very specific amount of distance from contact with your body. As a result, as you begin to move, swing your leg forward, it immediately moves to keep the front of the machine leg away from the front of your leg.”

Automation is bound to impact every worker in every industry. But rather than going fully automated, many tasks — particularly those that are performed in unstructured environments — may instead be performed by human workers augmented by machines. The goal here is to maintain a human’s cognitive flexibility with a machine’s strength and resilience.

“As soon as you move into a more unstructured environment where … you’re on a construction site and have to lift heavy items from one floor to the next in a one-off activity, not a lot of high repetition, that’s where it becomes far more challenging to find how automation to take control,” Wolff said. “The number of algorithms, sensors, awareness that a machine has to have to deal with the thousands of different variables…is simply far too advanced to rely on a computer and algorithm to help a robot decide what it needs to do.”

sarcos unveils exoskeletons exosuit controller

“For now,” he added, “let’s take the best of what a human being can offer, such as wisdom, judgement, intelligence, and instincts, and combine that with the best of what a robot can offer, in terms of strength, endurance, and precision.”

Like all companies that specialize in building the future, Sarcos is looking to stand out from competitors and thinks its full-body, fully-powered, and untethered machines will be a game changer. Hyundai, for example, is developing a full-body suit that needs to be tethered for full power, while companies like Panasonic and SuitX are developing smaller and untethered suits, which help give a wearer physical support and added strength, but don’t restrict the wearer’s freedom to roam.

Sarcos hasn’t offered an exact price for its exoskeletons yet, but Wolff says, “The cost to the user would be roughly equivalent to the cost of a fully-loaded salary employee in the $50,000 per year range … The one human operator plus our robot would cost roughly that of two human employees, but will allow for far fewer injuries and enhanced productivity.”

The company hopes to have the XO suits ready for commercial sale in 2019 and is currently taking preorders for custom-built GTs.

Features

From picking to pollinating, agribots are pushing farming into the future

Farming is becoming increasingly challenging. To deal with environmental pollution, labor shortage, and other major issues, agricultural scientists are turning to robots and AI.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Roll-up solar panels, dream controllers, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

'Far Cry 5' trades palm trees for pines, but it's still the same old game

Far Cry 5 has all the pieces of a lighthearted open-world romp and a dark, fascinating narrative-driven game. Unfortunately, the two are incompatible.
Emerging Tech

From robot insects to human-sniffing sensors, this rescue tech could save lives

Technology like inflatable vine robots and skin-sniffing smart sensors sound interesting, but could they actually save a person's life in a potential rescue mission? You may be surprised!
Gaming

The best Xbox One games

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Middle-Earth: Shadow of War,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Product Review

A low price comes with a steep learning curve on Monoprice's $160 3D printer

Don’t be fooled by the $160 price tag: Monoprice’s Mini Delta 3D printer is living proof that big things can come in small (and cheap) packages.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just landed another of its reusable Block 5 rockets

The only thing more impressive than SpaceX blastoffs may just be SpaceX landings. Early this morning, Elon Musk's extraterrestrial focused company managed to land a rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in July, from ‘Arrested Development’ to ‘Mad Men’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

15 epic sci-fi novels you should read before they become blockbuster films

You can get ahead of the next crop of science-fiction movies coming out of Hollywood by picking up the books that inspired them. We compiled a list of books you can add to your reading list now to get a glimpse of the future.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in July 2018, from ‘Coco’ to ‘Jurassic Park’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Gaming

The best PlayStation 4 games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Home Theater

How laser projection is taking IMAX even further over the top

We traveled to IMAX’s Toronto headquarters to see the company’s brand-new laser projection system. We’ve seen the future of big-screen theaters, and it’s brighter and more colorful than ever.
Emerging Tech

Boeing suffers setback in space taxi testing

NASA's contract with Soyuz expires next year, and the agency wants to accelerate the timeline to certify private companies like Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Emerging Tech

Meet the gigantic machine that eats land mines for breakfast

This mine-munching tank of a machine is capable of chewing through landmine-infested soil at an unimaginable rate. Thanks to it, we could have a landmine free world within decades.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese startup is planning an artificial shooting star show by 2020

Who says you have to wait around for a meteor shower? Not ALE Co., a Tokyo-based startup that wants you to wish upon a shooting star anytime you'd like. The company is creating a system that provides "shooting stars on demand."
Emerging Tech

NASA is teaming up with the United Arab Emirates to send humans into space

Nasa has recently signed a deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to advance human space travel. In a recent tweet, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the signing of a joint letter of intent.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Opportunity Rover is stuck in a giant dust storm that won’t end for months

A massive dust storm that is about the size of our continent has shrouded Mars and covered Opportunity for the last several weeks. Much of the planet is in the dark—and so too is Earth about Opportunity's whereabouts.