Top 15 Exoskeletons Merging Man With Machine

Exoskeletons to help the paralyzed walk, make heavy work easy, protect soldiers in the field and give us superhuman ability.

1. Activelink Power Loader

ActiveLink Ninja
Activelink Ninja exoskeleton. Image via Wired.

Named after the powered exoskeleton in the movie Aliens, the Activelink Power Loader comes in two versions and is designed to make hard manual work easy for the wearer regardless of their age, gender or size to “create a barrier free society” according to a press release by Activelink, a subsidiary of Japanese electronics company, Panasonic.

2. HAL

Cyberdine HAL
The HAL exoskeleton. Image via Cyberdine

The HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) powered exoskeleton from Japan based Cyberdine Inc. (yes, the same name that brought us the Terminator)  started as a prototype in 1997 and is now used in Japanese hospitals to assist disabled patients in their daily activities. The HAL is also being used in construction and it was reported that rescue workers were wearing the HAL suit in the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

3. Ekso Bionics

Ekso Bionics
The Elegs exoskeleton suit. Image via Ekso Bionics.

Ekso Bionics develops and manufactures powered robotic exoskeletons that help paraplegics to leave their wheelchair and walk. The California based company has a grand vision where exoskeletons will be the “jeans of the future” and used by both paraplegics and able-bodied people to run a marathon or climb Mount Kilimanjaro with ease.

4. FORTIS by Lockheed Martin

FORTIS Lockheed Martin
The FORTIS exoskeleton

The FORTIS is an industrial exoskeleton developed by Lockheed Martin that allows workers to lift objects weighing up to 36 pounds as if they were weightless. This kind of exoskeleton is perfect for manual workers and Lockheed Martin claims the FORTIS reduces muscle fatigue by 300 percent and increases work rate from 2 to 27 times. FORTIS is used by Lockheed Martin’s shipbuilder employees.

5. Body Extender

Body Extender
The Percro Body Extender

The Percro Body Extender looks like a smaller version of the Power Loader exoskeleton from sci-fi movie, Aliens.  The Body Extender can lift up to 110 pounds in each hand and can exert 10x the force the user applies. Percro says it can be used for heavy aircraft manufacturing or for aiding rescue missions of victims of earthquakes and other disasters.

6. The HULC

HULC Exoskeleton
HULC exoskeleton. Image via Lockheed Martin

The HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier) has been developed by Ekso Bionics and licensed by Lockheed Martin, and is a hydraulic exoskeleton which enables soldiers to carry weight of up to 200 pounds while out in the field. It’s battery powered, built from titanium and the load weight is optimized, meaning it’s distributed between the front and back of the suit.

7. Exosuit

The Exosuit. Image via The American Museum of Natural History

The 530 pounds Exosuit built by Nuytco Research is a new-age diving apparatus that allows deep sea divers to plunge over 1,000 feet while still maintaining flexibility in their joints to move around freely (or as freely as possible in a suit this size) allowing scientists to observe, photograph, and collect marine life in areas that are otherwise difficult to explore.

8. Soft Exoskeleton

The Soft Exosuit

DARPA, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, is funding Harvard’s Wyss Institute to develop a ‘soft exoskeleton’ for a range of people including the military, first-responders, elderly and people performing athletic activities. The ‘Soft Exosuit’ can help wearers carry heavy objects for long periods of time with less energy consumption that they would normally use.

9. The Titan Arm


Video on YouTube via Wall Street Journal.

The Titan Arm is a Cornell Cup winning upper-body exoskeleton that was created by students of the University of Pennsylvania for use in the fields of rehabilitation and therapeutic application. The arm can lift 40 pounds in addition to what the wearer’s real arm can lift and is powered by a battery pack attached to the backpack.

10. Daewoo Exoskeleton

Daewoo Exoskeleton
Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering exosuit. Image via New Scientist.

Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering is one of the largest shipbuilders in the world and this prototype exoskeleton was built specifically to help their shipbuilders become more productive when working with heavy machinery and parts. It can lift objects with a weight of around 65 pounds without wearer exertion though they plan to increase this to 220 pounds in future models.

11. Running Jetpack


This prototype running jetpack titled 4MM (Four Minute Mile) is being developed by Arizona State University with funding from DARPA to allow soldiers to run a four minute mile even with heavy equipment. Tests so far have shown that the wearer can run quicker while carrying more weight with less metabolic cost.

12. ReWalk

ReWalk Exoskeleton
The ReWalk exoskeleton.

Massachusetts based ReWalk is a wearable robotic exoskeleton which allows people with Spinal Cord Injury to stand up and walk by powering knee and hip movement. The FDA approved exoskeleton helps those confined to wheelchairs live a more active and practical life.

13. WREX

wrex exoskeleton

The Wilmington Robot Exoskeleton (WREX) has been developed by Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for children with muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, and arthrogryposis. The parts for the exoskeleton are 3D printed allowing it to be specifically customized for the wearer. A heartwarming example of the WREX being put to use was covered by CNN.

14. The Walk Again Project

Walk Again Project

The opening of the 2014 FIFA Soccer World Cup in Brazil saw Juliano Pinto, who is paralysed from the waist down, kick the World Cup ball using an exoskeleton connected to the neurons in his brain. Developed by Duke University, the exoskeleton is part of the ‘Walk Again Project’ and was created by a team of 150 and led by neuroscientist and leading figure in brain-machine interfaces, Dr Miguel Nicolelis. In short, Mr Pinto just had to think about kicking the ball which registered the brain activity to activate the exoskeleton to move.

15. The XOS 2

Raytheon XOS2 exsokeleton
The Raytheon XOS 2 exoskeleton. Via YouTube.

The Raytheon XOS 2 has been designed for the military in mind and allows the soldier wearing it to carry heavy equipment over long distances without getting tired, rescue wounded soldiers from the battlefield, and fire a weapon that usually requires two people to operate. The XOS 2 allows the wearer to lift up to 200 pounds repeatedly without breaking a sweat.

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