The lights are on
A team at the University of Pennsylvania has developed an assistive mobility device that could be the precursor to exoskeleton suits similar to Halo's Mjolnir armor. Get ready; science is going to make us all superheroes.
We love games because they make us feel capable, and takes us on rewarding adventures, but sometimes they also give us a glimpse into the near future. For example, the University of Pennsylvania recently built a powered upper body exoskeleton capable of lifting up to 40 pounds. These kinds of exoskeletons are not entirely new, but it's extremely cool to see a group of students build one so efficiently. This could easily be a precursor to armored suits as seen in games like Halo, but it's also interesting that the team uses a Wii-like nunchuck to control the device.
The TitanArm team envisions that this kind of technology could be used for physical therapy and assistive mobility applications. This is interesting because video games almost always look at the military applications for this kind of technology, but it's refreshing to see the actual science being tested for healthcare. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure someone out there is testing out a militarized version of the TitanArm, but this makes me wonder what other kinds of purposes we could use cybernetic technology for.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution did a good job explore the social aspects of how cybernetic implants would affect society – looking at how the mob or sex workers might make use of cybernetic implants – but where are all the wholesome uses for this kind of technology? How will cybernetics effect sports? What kinds of new games will exoskeletons allow us to play? Could cybernetic implants improve our ability to play musical instruments? To play musical cords that are otherwise physically impossible with the human body? Machines are already helping pilots perform crazier aerial stunts and fly safer? Could implants or permanent exoskeletons help us survive in frigid temperatures or live underwater? Could they allow us harness power from the sun like plants? I want games to explore those aspects of the future of technology.
Another interesting note is that the TitanArm team named their project after the "powerful deities of incredible strength and stamina in Greek mythology." Halo's Spartan's were also named after the heroic Greek warriors. Coincidence? Yeah, probably. A lot of people name things after Greek myths or ideals, but it's still fun to see how video games and practical science are thinking on the same wavelength.
Game developers agree. We asked Deus Ex: Human revolution's executive game director Jean-Francois Dugas what he thought of this kind of technology and he said, "When we started to imagine the world of DXHR back in early 2007, we were wondering how inaccurate we would be in 2027, the year in which the events of the game take place. When I see videos like this one, it makes me realize we won’t have to wait that long because it looks like Human Revolution is likely to happen in only a couple of years from now."
Projects like the TitanArm make me feel like we're one step closer to producing Master Chief, but I want to know how this science will help us produce better master chefs.
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