Monday, June 02, 2008

The HULC: The Human Universal Load Carrier

Berkeley Bionics this week began accepting orders for its prototype exoskeleton the Human Universal Load Carrier - the HULC. There's no word of the cost on their website, but it still must be encouraging news for Iron Man wannabes.

To the untrained eye, the HULC isn't much to look at - that's one in action on the right - but Berkeley Bionics say that a HULC user can walk normally while carrying up to 200 pounds (90 kg) of weight. You can see a video of it in action below, or here.

More impressively, the 'proprietary technology' within HULC actually reduces metabolic cost. Wearing the HULC, you consume about 5-10% less oxygen when walking than a HULC-less friend. The effect is even more pronounced when carrying a heavy load.

That's great news for the military, surely the key market for this kind of technology. But there must be all manner of other uses for the HULC. Most obviously, hikers could benefit from the lightweight system with a heavy carrying capability. And with health and safety increasingly important, how long before wearing a HULC-style exoskeleton is mandatory when lifting heavy weights at work?

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