Beastly Robot Arms Make Lifting 1,000 Pounds Feel Like Lifting Five

It’s time to take a gander at yet another new exoskeleton, usually meaning a deluge of references to Aliens or Edge of Tomorrow or Avatar. But instead of thinking about how this updated prototype, the “Guardian GT,” helps to bring us closer to incredible sci-fi realities, maybe it’s better this time around to just stick to the reality of what this human-aided robot can do — still a lot, considering it can make lifting 1,000 pounds feel like lifting five.

The Verge picked up on the latest video of the Guardian GT, designed and built by the robotics and micro-systems developer, Sarcos. In the above clip, we see the GT in action, moving its arms and manipulating a massive, heavy pipe, thanks to inputs from a human controller. The arms are seven feet long, can move with seven degrees of freedom, lift 500 pounds each, and are so easy to use that a novice can almost immediately have an intuitive sense for how they work.

This intuitive operation has been honed by Sarcos, and is made possible by configuring the robot arms so that they feel and behave like one’s own arms. To this end, the Guardian GT has similar proportions to those of a human, as well as force feedback so that the user can feel what he or she is picking up and manipulating. Sarcos’ CEO, Ben Wolff, told Wired that in order to keep the user connected to the object being lifted, “we give a little bit of load into the arm… So instead of lifting a thousand pounds you feel like you’re lifting five.”

Also shown in the video are the Guardian S and Guardian XO, the former of which is a kind of robotic snake that can climb stairs —  somewhat reminiscent of this horrific thing — while the latter is a full-on exoskeleton closer to something a real-life Ripley would wear.

But just to check in with reality once more, it’s unclear how much progress has really been made with these Guardian prototypes over the last few years. The Guardian GT was doing its power-lifting thing back in 2012 (although it now has three-fingered hands instead of clamps), and the Guardian XO was put on display back in 2010. And while some of the changes, especially with the XO, seem like they could be significant, it’s maybe best not to hold out for mass produced exoskeletons anytime soon. Although if that does happen, holding onto almost anything else from that point on wouldn’t be a problem.

What do you think about these beastly robotic arms? Are we finally getting closer to sci-fi exoskeletons, or is this just another small step on a long journey? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

Images: YouTube / Sarcos Robotics 

We For One Welcome Our Robot Overlords…

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