Panasonic has unveiled the world’s first production powered exoskeleton, in the form of a power loader “straight out of Aliens” (albeit perhaps not quite as impressive).
Panasonic plans to make 1,000 of the units for general sale in 2015, at a surprisingly reasonable cost of 500,000 yen each ($5,000).
The consumer “power loader light” version will only be able to lift 30kg, with one charge of its batteries good for 2-3 hours of operation and a variety of hammers and digging tools available as replacement arms.
However, the test version can lift 100kg and trot along at a top speed of 8kph, making it somewhat more of a proposition for crushing alien queens.
Online there is a certain amount of enthusiasm, as well as some doubts:
“Didn’t we see this in Aliens?”
“Looks like it could make short work of any queens.”
“Pretty cheap at 500,000 yen.”
“Total power loader. The driver could use some protection though.”
“Put some armour on it!”
“Looks a lot more usable than a forklift.”
“Even I can lift 30kg! Without the 100kg version what is the point?”
“Panasonic are still producing industrial waste I see.”
“I’d rather have a big dog as a robot partner.”
“30kg is nothing. Factor in maintenance and accidents and this will never sell.”
“Maybe you can lift that much one or twice, but try unloading 30 boxes from a truck and see how you feel at the end.”
“Imagine 2 hours of lifting 30kg boxes – I think it will work out.”
“Plus women or the disabled can do the same work with this now too.”
“This has to compete with hiring some day labourer though.”
“Seems a bit pointless to put a human in it – why not just remote control it?”
“Looks like a new age is dawning.”
“Just think of the size of the guns you could make it carry…”