AUSTIN — “Honey, what should I wear today — my blue shirt, or my enormous cyborgian exoskeleton?”
A new startup from Japan called Skeletonics is showing off a very cool, very frightening homemade external skeleton here at the South by Southwest conference in Austin. The wearer straps himself inside the suit and can then walk and jump around, controlling the arms and legs of the skeleton itself. The suit is made of simple aluminum, with several springs and mechanical joints that operate corresponding limbs on the skeleton. In what should be very exciting news for my fellow nerds, operating the suit looks like driving a Jaeger, like our heroes do in the movie Pacific Rim.
Now, when you pretend to fight Kaiju in your backyard, you’ll look a little less ridiculous. Or a little more ridiculous, depending on your point of view.
Check out a bare-bones version below. And note that a complete suit would have a more polished design:
Mako Mori fantasies aside, the Skeletonics suit is probably more notable, technologically, for what it doesn’t do than what it does. Other researchers and entrepreneurs have endowed exoskeletons with awesome power, giving the wearer superhuman strength or speed, or a heads-up display in front of the eyes.
According to the two young Tokyo-based inventors of this exoskeleton, however, the Skeletonics suit is “for entertainment.” It features no on-board computers, hydraulics or electrified parts: Just aluminum and springs and nuts and bolts. It simply looks cool and is fun to use.
Getting into the suit.
The idea here is that you would be able to rent out a Skeletonics suit for an hour or two and pal around with your friends, pretending you’re cyborgs. Skeletronics would sell its exoskeletons to vendors, who would then lease them out. The Skeletonics suit is more Segway than Iron Man: You could run around the park, tour the city’s streets, shadowbox, whatever.
Right now, there are only five Skeletonics suits in the world, and each one costs $50,000. Later this year Panasonic plans to release a similar suit for about $5,000 — one that could let you lift up to 220 pounds and run 5 miles per hour. So competing exoskeletons are more technically advanced and cheaper. These guys will have to figure out something other than price.
Where they’re headed is diversion: The Skeletronics could be a safe, easy-to-maintain alternative to electronic competitors. For now, Skeletronics represents an impressive, expensive suit that anyone could jump into and live out her Pacific Rim dreams. Now if only someone could make a Kaiju suit, too.
For all the latest on fantastic sci-fi exoskeleton suits from Japan, follow Yahoo Tech on Facebook right here.