Response from DARPA about exo-skeleton

Posted by Ralph | 4:26 PM

I sent an email to the Director of the U.S. Military exoskeleton technology project. The original email was to request an interview investigating the feasibility of exoskeleton technology, combined with myoelectric control systems such as the HAL-5 and the varied prosthetic technologies that use myoelectric control systems.

Here is the email in it's entirety that I received from DARPA. My interview request was declined but they gave me the information I was looking for. I hope you find it as interesting as I did. I'll have more information about these questions and more in the near future.

Thank you for your email. We will not be able to do an interview, but I do have some information that you might find useful.

We are not currently pursuing combining exoskeleton technology and electrical stimulation as an option for disabled persons. Our focus for the exoskeleton program is the development of an exoskeleton system for Soldiers that would allow them to carry more weight without fatigue, so
we are not looking at its applicability for the disabled. The bexoskeleton system now under development uses a control system that closely follows the natural movements of the operator. It is not using myoelectric control and will only work if the operator can himself make the walking or lifting motions desired.

In addition to the exoskeleton program, DARPA is also embarking on an ambitious program to develop a new upper extremity prosthesis.

This prosthesis will use high-fidelity neural signals for control rather than the current myoelectric strategy now employed for prosthetic devices. While our focus in this program is on a revolutionary advancement in prosthetics, we would expect that the research would also have implications for other medical applications, perhaps to include the use
of neural control to assist the disabled. Our program will deliver a prototype device for human clinical trials in 2009. You should contact our contractor Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory at that time to discuss whether they are planning any other applications for the technology.

I hope this information is helpful!

Jan Walker - Darpa

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