SOFTWARE engineer Rex Jameson is lucky if he presses 90 kilograms. But after stepping into a robotic soldier suit his strength and endurance multplies as many as 20 times.
With the outfit`s claw-like metal hand extensions, he grips a weight set`s bar at a demonstration and knocks off hundreds of repetitions.
Once, he did 500.
"Everyone gets bored much more quickly than I get tired," Jameson said.
Jameson works for robotics firm Sarcos Inc in Salt Lake City, which is under contract with the US. Army. He is helping assess the 68kg suit`s viability for the soldiers of tomorrow.
The exoskeleton suit works by sensing every movement the wearer makes and almost instantly amplifying it.
The Army believes soldiers may someday wear the suits in combat, but it`s focusing for now on applications such as loading cargo or repairing heavy equipment. Sarcos is developing the technology under a two-year contract worth up to $15 million, and the Army plans initial field tests next year.
Before the technology can become practical, the developers must overcome cost barriers and extend the suit`s battery life. Jameson was tethered to power cords during his demonstration because the current battery lasts just 30 minutes.
But the technology already offers evidence that robotics can amplify human muscle power in reality - not just in the realm of comic books and movies like the recently debuted Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow, about a wealthy weapons designer who builds a high-tech suit to battle bad guys.