Japanese Exoskeleton Update: Does Team Skeletonics have New Gear? (VIDEO)
We’ve been in love with Team Skeletonics’ human-powered exoskeleton for years, and all throughout, it's pretty much been the same mechanical and aesthetic configuration. But it now looks like they’ve been refining in the background, and might be bringing something new out to play.
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Exoskeletons are Big in Japan
Now, Japan’s got Cyberdyne’s HAL suit, then there’s Honda’s array of semi-exoskeletal assistive devices, Panasonic/Activelink is doing interesting work with their Power Loader Light project, and industrial robotics giant Yaskawa Electric’s recently moved rather boldly into exoskeletal robotic rehab and a funding & development deal with Argo’s ReWalk system. It’s all kinds of game-on in J-exoskeletonry.
And the Biggest is Human-Powered
The Skeletonics exoskeleton, by Team Skeletonics (say it 3 times fast), is less well known than some of the above, more so than others, but at 8 ft 2 in tall (2.5 m), its physical presence definitely dominates, and in a mild little irony, it’s the only device powered entirely by its wearer/user.
The team behind Skeletonics, classmates from an Okinawan tech school, though now based here in Tokyo, exudes a joyous, robodorky enthusiasm for what they’re doing. While their work is obviously world-class, their promo & demo videos are cheeky, self-deprecating, and just fun to watch.
Among those videos, and in a few photos here and there, something new seems to have cropped up...
A careful looking-at the image above and watching-of the video below reveals the suit on the right to not only be fitted with new angular limb-panel thingys and pokey white fingers, but it also incorporates a few structural changes, possibly upgrades. And, the hand interface looks unfinished. Also, what are those black sleeves covering something on the back?
Well, speculation is at best speculative, and since we’re here on the ground in Tokyo, rather than endlessly guess at what’s up with the new machine, we’re just going to the source - and we know where the source is going to be in about 10 days:
So, sans speculation, we’ll be back in a few weeks with the scoop, exclusive photos, and video - and other Maker Faire Tokyo 2013 coverage. Stay tuned!
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Addendum: the Great Japanese Exoskeleton Controversy of 2013
Those in the J-exoskeleton know might have noticed an omission in the above roll call, and that would be Sagawa Electronics’ Power Jacket MK3. See, although at this point it’s pretty much squashed, there’s controversy in the rearview - controversy along the lines of:
“Hey, I think those Sagawa guys totally stole our design.” -Team Skeletonics
When Sagawa YouTubed their Power Jacket promo on July 5, quickly racking up nearly a million views and tons of publicity, it did appear that the sincere flattery was a bit overzealous. And, as it turned out, they actually did copy a few parts of Team Skeletonics’ design... but it was complicated.
AkihabaraNews spoke with both team leaders last July, and aside from a lingering frustration, they both seemed conciliatory and eager to move on. It’s an interesting little intrigue - for those who’d enjoy digging into the whole saga, along with background and R&D info on both teams, have a read: