The promise of a usable power-enhancing human exoskeleton has long fascinated sci-fi writers, scientists - and tech journalists. But so far while the demo videos and press releases have been plentiful, actual working models that you'd want to wear for more than 20 minutes are hard to come by.
That might be about to change thanks to researchers at arvard University's Wyss Institute, who used a £1.7 million grant from Darpa to build a soft exosuit that weighs just 8kg.
The suit is made mainly of air-filled bags, fabrics and other non-rigid elements that mean it's easier to use, and more comfortable to wear.
The team explains:
An exosuit does not contain any rigid elements, so the wearer's bone structure must sustain all the compressive forces normally encountered by the body -- plus the forces generated by the exosuit. The suit, which is composed primarily of specially designed fabrics, can be significantly lighter than an exoskeleton since it does not contain a rigid structure. It also provides minimal restrictions to the wearer's motions, avoiding problems relating to joint misalignment.
According to the team the suit can make you three times as strong - though lifting such weights isn't advisable because of the lack of reinforced elements. But it could easily be used to help soldiers move for longer with less energy - or wear the suit under a uniform, only using it when needed.