The new issue of Science News
has an article on the
current state of Exoskeleton research. It covers current military and
industrial R & D projects. It also has a brief history of exoskeletons
the original conception of the idea in Robert Heinlein's
I remember reading about that suit when I read the book (quite a while
back) and thinking that the mechanism he described for moving the thing
was quite cool.
Basically, he described a purely reactive system. The suit has some
kind of pressure sensitive mesh/grid on the inside and constantly moves
to try and stay at a neutral position relative to the occupant.
(Example: you move your arm and your arm comes into contact with
the inside of the suit arm. The suit moves the arm along the indicated
vector until YOUR arm is no longer in contact with the suit.)
At the time I thought that this was pretty darn cool because it
basically eliminates the need for a lot of complex control systems
stuff in the armor. (although you would probably still need some kind
of snubbing/damping or something) The human in the loop is still the
primary control system/feeback integrator. You no longer REQUIRE
gyros, balance control algorithms, etc. Basically you end up with a
situation analogous to a hydraulically assisted flight control system
versus a true fly by wire fight control system.
Granted, if you add all of that extra cool stuff you get a much more
versatile device (like the one that John Ringo describes in several of
his books, but I think it would be a lot easier to actually
BUILD one in the manner Heinlein describes.
Wow, this has gotten to be quite a bit longer than I had intended ...