We’ve all grown accustomed to seeing our superheroes in Spandex suits, running faster than a normal person, lifting more than one ought to be able to lift, and demonstrating endurance unheard of for a normal human being, but the costume itself is never depicted as a source of that power. If you want added performance out of a super suit, Iron Man comes to mind, not Captain America.
Exosuits have been in development for years now by the military and private organizations seeking to enhance a human being’s utilitarian capabilities. We’ve all seen them. Some look like bipedal forklifts, others more like full-body metal braces. But each of these suits operates under the same basic principle we find in fictional heroes: If you want to increase strength and endurance through a suit, you’re going to need to look like a robot.
But a paper published by a Harvard team in the peer-reviewed journal “Science Robots” last week has turned that concept on its head. The team of 11 scientists, researchers, and engineers produced the first successful “soft exosuit” that enhances and improves human mobility while bearing more in common with The Rock’s under-armor than with Fallout’s power armor.
By attaching a series of fabric components to the human body, at the hip, ankle, and calf, then using bands to connect them in specific ways, the suit serves as a supplement to the body’s natural movements via an electric motor at the ankle.