How would it feel to put on an exoskeleton that barred you from getting tired all day? Well, the process of building technology that offers people superhuman strength is underway. However, there has been raising of numerous ethical questions on whether it should be developed and the situations in which it can be used.
Just like the name suggests, an exoskeleton acts as an external frame that can be worn to provide support to the body and enable a person to overcome an injury in addition to improving their biological capacities. The exoskeleton receives power from an electricmotor system that provide the limbs with additional strength, endurance and movement.
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Biomechatronics Lab, are working to create an exoskeleton that works in harmony with the body. For instance, Tyler Clites, a PhD student is very interested in human enhancement because his piano playing abilities were limited after suffering arthritis a few years ago.
With the help of the neuro-embodied design, Clites’s team is working on ways that allow extension of the human nervous system into the synthetic world and vice versa. The researchers’ lab has a treadmill that features gadgets that measure the force used when walking or running. It also has motion-capture cameras that assess the movement of people’s joints and muscles.
With the device, the researchers’ collect data that will help them create a design that will allow people to run or walk faster or even work more efficiently. The team works under the supervision of Prof Hugh Herr and they all aim at pushing the technological boundaries behind what the presentbiological frames can allow.
The hope is that the present huge exoskeletons can be reduced to the size of a sneaker or even a clothing accessory. However, Prof Noel Sharkey, co-founder for the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, has expressed concern on the idea of technology that enables people to work longer hours.
He says that the exoskeletons only address the issue of physical tiredness and not mental fatigue. He adds that the designers should consider the probability of misuse and the technology should switch itself off after say, six hours.
Mr. Clites is of a contrary opinion; he says that it is not righttolimittechnology. For instance, companies do not stop building cars just because some people will drive them while drunk. It is good to look at technology in terms of the benefits it offers.
In the present century, developers can incorporate the nervous system into exoskeletons that people can control with their minds.