July 20, 2012 at 2:30 PM ET
The military’s futuristic research agency has awarded Harvard University researchers $2.6 million to develop a smart suit that could help improve the endurance of soldiers out in the field.
The proposed lightweight, efficient, and nonrestrictive suit would be made from soft wearable assistive devices that integrate several technologies pioneered at the university’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
For example, a stretchable sensor would monitor the body’s biomechanics without rigid components that can interfere with motion. These sensors could detect the onset of fatigue.
What the suit will do when it knows its wearer is tired isn’t clear, though another technology envisioned for it would send out low-level vibrations that boost the body’s sensory functions. This could, for example, help a weary wearer maintain balance.
The suit differs from other super-soldier technologies such as the widely touted exoskeletons, which have large power requirements and are built with rigid components that can restrict mobility, the team notes in a news release.
Though the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is interested in the technology for military applications, similar technology could help increase the stamina of elderly people and improve mobility for people with physical disabilities.