Panasonic Active Link has been developing a series of robot suits that augment human strength for years called the POWERLOADER. Not surprisingly, they named their system after the suit seen in James Cameron’s Aliens film. Now they’re taking orders from research institutions for the new PLL (POWERLOADER Light), which uses a direct force-feedback system to predict and augment your leg movements (increasing strength by up to 40kg [400N]). Six-axis force sensors in the foot pedals sense when you move and shift your weight, allowing the PLL to match your leg movements. But don’t expect it to let you leap over tall buildings in a single bound.
The suit could be used as a research platform in robotics, man-machine interfacing, BMI (brain-machine interfacing), and so on, and could target rehabilitation care. The system is designed to operate on Linux2.6, and it totally open to customization by researchers (including the hardware exterior). The initial price is 18,000,000 JPY ($223,000) a pop, but they’re enticing potential developers with a research grant program, which would effectively halve the price to 9,000,000 JPY ($111,500 USD). Researchers have to publish their findings within one year, with the caveat that others must be able to reproduce the results in three years.
You can see images of the more heavy-duty version here.