Prototype Exoskeleton Suit Would Improve Soldiers’ Physical, Mental Performance

Dr. Courtney Webster makes adjustments to the Warrior Web physical augmentation suit from Harvard’s Wyss Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. The research, funded by DARPA, and tested at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, holds great potential, officials said. U.S. Army photo by David McNally

 

By Joyce M. Conant

ARL Public Affairs

Thanks to a new “suit” being developed by the DOD-funded Warrior Web program, future Soldiers will be able to march longer, carry heavier gear and improve mental sharpness.

A Soldier wears an exosuit while on a treadmill at a U.S. Army Research Laboratory facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The suit, which is part of the Army’s Warrior Web Program has pulleys and gears designed to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries caused by dynamic events typically found in the warfighter’s environment. Researchers use the feedback gained for ongoing research and developments as they continue to refine the prototypes. U.S. Army photo by Ron Carty

The Warrior Web physical augmentation suit has pulleys and gears designed to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries caused by the dynamic events typically experienced in the Warfighter’s environment.

Scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory have been testing variations of the suit for more than three years at the Soldier Performance and Equipment Advanced Research, or SPEAR, facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

“We’ve been primarily focusing on the physical benefits of these types of suits, but we’re also interested in the cognitive benefits,” said ARL researcher Dr. Angela Boynton. “We’re hoping that by reducing the physical burden, that they also have the ability to put more energy into other types of tasks that involve cognitive or perceptual workload.”

Researchers tested the same group of Soldiers in April and again in June, both with and without the suit, and gathered massive amounts of data.

“If you reduce the physical burden on somebody, there may be some benefits additionally to the amount of attention they can pay to their situational awareness,” Boynton said.

Officials are still discussing the path forward.

“I see it as a solution-focused suite of technologies that support a wide array of Soldier issues that we are having to deal with right now,” said Henry Girolamo, program manager for the Warrior Web project. “We need to iterate the technology a little bit further along to make sure we can actually do that and I know we can. We just need the funding and time to do that.”

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