Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX)
The Berkeley exoskeleton system provides soldiers, disaster relief workers, wildfire fighters, and other emergency personnel the ability to carry major loads such as food, rescue equipment, first-aid supplies, communications gear and weaponry with minimal effort over any type of terrain for extended periods of time. The vision for the device is that it will provide a versatile transport platform for mission-critical equipment.
The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) funded the BLEEX project in 2000. Last November, U.C. Berkeley’s Human Engineering and Robotics Laboratory, successfully demonstrated the first experimental Exoskeleton in which the pilot (i.e., the wearer) could carry a heavy load, while feeling only a few-pound load.
The primary objective of the BLEEX project at U.C. Berkeley is to create a self-powered exoskeleton for strength and endurance enhancement of humans that is ergonomic, highly maneuverable, mechanically robust, lightweight and durable.
The first prototype experimental exoskeleton is comprised of two powered anthropomorphic legs, a power unit, and a backpack-like frame on which a variety of loads can be mounted. The device connects rigidly to the pilot at the foot and, in order to prevent abrasion, more compliantly elsewhere. The Exoskeleton allows a person to comfortably squat, bend, swing from side to side, twist, walk and run on ascending and descending slopes, and step over and under obstructions while carrying equipment and supplies. While wearing the exoskeleton, the wearer can carry significant loads over considerable distances without reducing his/her agility, thus significantly increasing his/her physical effectiveness. In order to address issues of field robustness and reliability, the system is designed such that, should the device lose power (e.g., from fuel exhaustion), the exoskeleton legs can be removed with the machine becoming no more than a standard backpack.
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