Researchers working on new wearable ‘exosuit’

Mike Krumboltz
The Sideshow

A wearable exoskeleton suit that could one day make soldiers stronger and faster is being developed by researchers at Harvard University and Boston University for the Department of Defense, NBC News reports.

Called an "exosuit," the futuristic piece of technology would allow users to move objects they wouldn't normally be able to lift and run faster than they would normally be able to run.

While exoskeletons are not a new phenomenon, this one stands out because it can be slipped onto the body, like an article of clothing.

So, how does it work?

The exosuit is made of specially designed fabrics and air tubes that wrap about the legs of the user. When the wearer moves his or her legs, the suit acts as a kind of assistant. Because the suit doesn't feature any rigid parts, it is lighter and does not need to be adjusted as frequently, according to the demonstration's description on YouTube.

Conor Walsh, the leader of the team that designed and built the technology, told NBC News, "When you wear it, you feel like you're getting a bit of a boost. After you stop wearing it, you notice that you don't have that extra assist any more."

Walsh went on to explain that while this early prototype requires a backpack and quite a bit of tubing, his goal is to find a way to get the technology into normal-looking clothing. "You can imagine something like a spider web that's integrated into tightly fitting pants," Walsh told NBC News.

Walsh told NBC News that the suit, when fully developed, could assist soldiers in the field, athletes seeking a boost and people undergoing muscle rehabilitation treatment after an injury.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, began working on a similar project in 2000 known as Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX). The suit, which was demonstrated in 2004, was notably bigger and appeared far more unwieldy than this newer version.

See a demonstration of the BLEEX below.