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A Suit That Turns A Person Into A Robot (Sort Of)

A few years ago, the Defense Department invited researchers from around the world to build robots that could respond to disasters. The machines were supposed to go up stairs, drive a car and clear debris.

The competition to test the robots was last week. For many of the robots, it did not go well.

It's really hard to get robots to do basic things. One possible workaround, at least for some settings, is to combine a person and a machine.

Russ Angold is in the business of building exoskeletons. He runs a company called Ekso Bionics, which makes suits that are designed make you stronger and less prone to injury. I wore one. It gave me superhuman strength. Sort of.

Suits like this one allow construction workers to lift really heavy objects. The company is also building an exoskeleton for people with spinal cord injuries, and another for U.S. special operations forces.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Steve Henn is NPR's technology correspondent based in Menlo Park, California, who is currently on assignment with Planet Money. An award winning journalist, he now covers the intersection of technology and modern life - exploring how digital innovations are changing the way we interact with people we love, the institutions we depend on and the world around us. In 2012 he came frighteningly close to crashing one of the first Tesla sedans ever made. He has taken a ride in a self-driving car, and flown a drone around Stanford's campus with a legal expert on privacy and robotics.