Updated 6:02 PM EDT, Wed, Apr 01, 2020

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Soft Exosuit will make US Soldiers less Prone to Fatigue; will Complement Bullet-proof TALOS Armor

Less tired

(Photo : Harvard University) A soft exosuit prototype from Harvard.

A battlefield "malleable fabric exosuit" that will make U.S. soldiers less prone to fatigue is being developed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to complement the heavier type of exosuit armor called TALOS or the "Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit."

The purpose of the malleable fabric exosuit or soft exosuit is to help soldiers move forward with less effort and conserve their energy instead of making a soldier more bullet proof, said Conor Walsh, lead researcher from Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Harvard University's Wyss Institute is assisting DARPA in this effort.

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The malleable fabric exosuit senses the soldier's motion and responds to assist him by using a system of battery-powered sensors, motors, gears, cables and pulleys sandwiched between the fabric layers. It's designed to help soldiers walking long distances with heavy loads avoid fatigue.

"So far, tests have shown energy savings of seven percent," said Walsh.

The final prototype will be equipped "with more efficient actuators, sensors and cables," he pointed out.

"We are intrigued by this challenge because we are so inspired by how our muscles and nervous systems work," said Walsh.

On the other hand, TALOS is a robotic exoskeleton being built by the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with the help of military contractors, universities and the tech industry.

The TALOS armor is based on a revolutionary form of protection called "liquid armor." U.S. researchers are using nanotechnology to strengthen kevlar armor with a "magnetorheological fluid" (or MR fluid) that changes into a solid milliseconds after being struck by a bullet.

The design of the suit could also include an attachable frame that serves as the suit's exoskeleton. The U.S. Army said the exoskeleton promises to give U.S. soldiers superhuman strength.

But closer to development than either TALOS or the malleable fabric exosuit is a vibrating insole to help soldiers on rugged terrain. This invention comes from the Wyss Institute.

The insoles' internal vibrating pads deliver buzzes that feel "as if you put your foot on a subwoofer," noted James Niemi, a lead senior staff engineer at the Wyss Institute.

"It makes your feet more sensitive to the ground."

With this awareness, the body can better interpret its position and better adjust.

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