Blending human capabilities with robotic components has been the stuff of sci-fi. Now, science fiction has become science fact. Lockheed Martin, for instance, has created the HULC, a battery-powered exoskeleton that allows soldiers to haul 200 pounds of gear at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour. A company called Ekso Bionics offers a variation on the HULC that lets paralyzed people get up and move. And numerous enterprises are working on 3-D-printed robotic limbs for war victims.
The technology is also emerging in industrial applications. In Germany, Audi is using the Chairless Chair, a wearable carbon-fiber apparatus that allows assembly line workers to rest their leg muscles. And Daewoo shipyard employees in Korea now sport exoskeletons that allow them to carry and manipulate 60-pound pieces of metal as though they were balsa wood.