Seeks Military and First Responder Applications
Lockheed Martin announced on 11 April it has licensed the DERMOSKELETON bionic augmentation technology developed by B-Temia. The license permits use of B-Temia technology in products for military, industrial, commercial and first-responder applications.
DERMOSKELETON is the basis for computer-controlled devices that can increase mobility and load-carrying capacity by counteracting overstress on the lower back and legs. “This technology offers a pathway to increased loadbearing and greater agility for our FORTIS industrial exoskeleton,“ Glenn Kuller, Advanced and Special Programmes vice president at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, pointed out. “It can also help to solve existing limitations of powered exoskeletons for our military and first responders. We’re excited about the potential we see here.“
FORTIS is an unpowered, lightweight exoskeleton that increases an operator’s strength and endurance by transferring the weight of heavy loads from the operator’s body directly to the ground through a series of joints at the hips, knees and ankles.
The growing market for human augmentation, which parallels developments in robotic systems in general, is beginning to promise great things. The use of external devices to empower soldiers, firefighters or emergency/rescue operatives to perform better, faster and in greater safety is an undoubtedly worthy goal. There are, however, risks involved.
The temptation to ‘overengineer‘ a device – to continually develop it to the point at which it can do everything any possible user might potentially envisage – risks a) delaying and increasing programme costs, b) alienating the user and c) confusing the market. Better, surely, to develop discrete systems for specific applications, test them rigorously, learn from user feedback and allow the technologies to mature at a natural rather than a forced pace.