In 1970s television, there was the Six Million Dollar Man (SMDM) and its spinoff series the Bionic Woman. Based on the novel, “Cyborg,” as the story goes, the SMDM was a former astronaut, left blind, with just one limb after a crash. For six million dollars, he was rebuilt with bionic parts that enabled him to run at 60 miles per hour. (It isn’t clear if you turn that upside down you would need nine million dollars to enable him to walk ninety miles an hour.) In any case, SMDM also had body strength equivalent to the power of a bulldozer. Both series are on DVDs somewhere. At that time SMDM was clearly a work of fiction but that’s no longer necessarily the case. Thanks to the folks at Berkley Bionics, ordinary people can possess the ability to perform almost like the bionic folks of the TV series.
Since 2005 engineers in labs at Berkley University have been working to improve bionic powers. They don’t make bionic people. They give people bionic capabilities with robotic exoskeletons. One of the first iterations was the ExoHiker which could be strapped on to human hikers, allowing them to run with up to a 200 pound backpack, without feeling the weight. The engineers improved on that with the ExoClimber, a device that makes a human able to climb steep stairs in a single bound – maybe. Then the Department of Defense got involved with money for advanced exoskeletal devices suitable for soldiers to use out in the field. Lately, they’ve received much press for their eLegs, a wearable robot designed to get people out of their wheelchairs. All of which means we’re that much closer to the wearable motorcycle.
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