This article is more than 2 years old
Exosuits are big in sci-fi right now. For all of the movie’s flaws, the metal frame that Matt Damon has bolted into his skeleton in Elysium is totally badass. And sure, the one Tom Cruise wears in the upcoming Edge of Tomorrow is clunky, bulky, and comical looking when he runs, but it makes up for any inherent silliness with ample, alien-fighting firepower. Activelink, a subsidiary of Panasonic, is working on an exoskeleton called the Power Loader that is definitely more science and less fiction.
This device amplifies human strength and will come in handy when you have to do things like move heavy loads, or in clear rubble in the case of an emergencys. Or, you know, in the event that you have to strap in and fight off an armor-plated alien-queen killing machine. This looks and functions almost exactly like the power loader that Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) uses to beat back the big bitch xenomorph in James Cameron’s 1986 film Aliens. It’s even just named the Power Loader, for crying out load. They must have taken one look at this, realized exactly what it is they built, and said, what the hell, why call it anything else?
Activelink is actively working on two different versions of the Power Loader. First they have the bigger version, the one more reminiscent of Ripley’s, though it is in realty much smaller. Then again, the one in Aliens is designed to move huge loads of heavy freight—the company does intend to make a larger version for similar purposes, but for now their attention is focused elsewhere.
After the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, Activelink saw the potential need for a smaller version to help with the reconstruction and cleanup efforts there. That’s where the idea for the more maneuverable, agile version first reared its head. As you can see in the video, this is more reminiscent of Max’s (Damon) suit in Elysium. It doesn’t bolt right into your body, but it is designed to be light, unobtrusive, and to do exactly what that suit is intended to do, enhance human musculature and aid in performing tasks that involve heavy lifting.
The machines work by using force sensors to measure the pressure the driver uses, and creates a corresponding exertion from the robotic arms. As you can see in these demonstrations, it takes relatively little effort on the part of the human to create a considerable display of strength on from the suit.