Science Questions

Wearable robot or dancing suit?

Sun, 8th Feb 2009

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Paul, NZ asked:

My question is: a year or two ago I was daydreaming of a light suit of armour that folk could put on and it would help uncoordinated fools such as myself to do taiji or ballroom dancing either by giving me an electrical prod in the left leg or right leg or right arm or whatever. Any comments?



We put this to Noel Sharkey, Professor of Robotics, University of Sheffield.

I donít think anybody has a plan to make a suit like that but I think that now your listener has said it someone might do it. An electrically powered exoskeleton suit currently in development by Tsukuba University of Japan.

My immediate thoughts are the exoskeleton suits that have been developed by the American military and also by the Japanese company called Cyberdyne.  Theyíre leasing these exoskeleton suits to elderly people at the moment.  What it is, is you put the suit on your body.  Itís very thin, lightweight metal and it goes up your body so it will detect how your muscles are moving and then move as you want.

Itíll lift you out of your chair, you can run upstairs and you can lift heavy weights.

I know they can be remote-controlled so you could have somebody remote controlling it and getting you to do the right dance steps or you could programme it to do the right dance steps.

Another point I thought was that maybe you could use one of those sensitive dance floors.  An ex student of mine has developed one at the University of Limerick, Niall Griffiths.  What it is, is a floor covered with pressure sensors.  Irish dancers can use this floor and itís made up of squares.  The squares will light up to make the dancer know where to go.  If they put their foot on it thereís a pressure sensor that detects where theyíve gone.

What could happen in combining the suit and the sensor floor is the floor could light up and let the person know where to go. If they didnít go there immediately the suit could go there for them and give them feedback. That would be my solution.


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Like on the movie 'The Tuxedo' Chemistry4me, Tue, 3rd Feb 2009

There is a exoskeleton being developed in Japan. AFAIK at the moment it is just for legs and to help people with lower limb deficiencies.. but I see no reason why they couldn't make it for dancing.
However, I believe that the goal is to be able to move these exoskeletons by tapping straight into the brain, so you'd still need to take tango lessons. JnA, Tue, 3rd Feb 2009

I've seen something like this on a TV show called 'Beyond Tommorrow'. They were using it in hospitals to help nurses and doctors lift heavy patients. It had air tight bags around leg, arm and back muscles. When wearing it, it detects which direction your arm or leg is moving within the suit using pressure sensors. The air tight bags inflate and deflate like a muscle tightens and relaxes, this in turn amplifies the muscle strength allowing the doctor to seem superhuman with strength.

Sputnik Competion Nic Browne, Sat, 7th Feb 2009

I've a feeling the military have been developing or using something like this in several contexts, including evacuation of wounded personnel, in assisting with heavy lifting and in enabling personnel to move much more quickly than normal. Doesn't sound too tricky to produce a version that will make you dance!

Chris chris, Sat, 7th Feb 2009

RD, Sun, 8th Feb 2009

The performance artist "Stelarc" had a computer move his body to music via electrodes attached to his skin activating his muscles.
It wasn't dancing though: it was more like choreographed torture by electricity, with musical accompaniment.


This is he (via periphery camera)...

Oh, he has had an extra ear (1/4 size) implanted in his arm.

]. RD, Sun, 8th Feb 2009

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