Robotics and Human-Amplifier Exoskeletons

BLEEX (Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton) by the  University of California Berkeley intended to assist people like soldiers or firefighters bearing heavy loads for long distances.

Exoskeleton suit by the University of Tokyo.  Designed to help the aged and disabled walk.

Humans aren't the swiftest creatures on Earth, and most of us are limited in the amount of weight that we can pick up and carry. These weaknesses can be fatal on the battlefield, and that's why the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is interested in the development of an exoskeleton suit (human performance augmentation system) for ground troops. This wearable robotic system could give soldiers the ability to run faster, carry heavier weapons and leap over large obstacles.


Basically, an exoskeleton is a wearable machine that gives a human enhanced abilities. Imagine a battalion of super soldiers that can lift hundreds of pounds as easily as lifting 10 pounds and can run twice their normal speed. The potential of non-military applications is also phenomenal.


At Tel-Aviv University, and under the direction of Prof. Mircea Arcan (z”l),  we worked on the development of electromyography-based systems for the control of exoskeleton human performance amplifiers (myoprocessors).  This research was supported by the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IDF/IMO - Committee on Humans in Combat).  Some of the publications resulting from the effort are:


· D. Prutchi and M. Arcan, "Development of a High-Resolution Large-Array (HRLA) Surface EMG System for Powered Exoskeleton Control", 1993.


· D. Prutchi, A. Smilovich, O. Maimon and M. Arcan, "Remote Measurement of Human-Body/Exoskeleton Kinematics" [PDF], 1993.


· D. Prutchi, J. Rosen, and M. Arcan, "Natural Activation of a Powered Exoskeleton - Development of a Predictive Myoprocessor based on Voluntary Muscle Control Principles (VMCP)" [PDF], 1993.


· J. Rosen, M.B. Fuchs, M. Arcan, “Performances of Hill-Type and Neural Network Muscle Models - Toward a Myosignal-Based Exoskeleton”, Computers and Biomedical Research 32, 415–439, 1999 [PDF ]


· J. Rosen, M.  Brand, M.B. Fuchs, and M. Arcan, “A Myosignal-Based Powered Exoskeleton System”, IEEE Trans. Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Part A: Systems and Humans, 31(3), 2001 [PDF]


· D. Prutchi, "A High-Resolution Large-Array (HRLA) Surface EMG System", Medical Engineering and Physics, 17(6), 1350-4533, 1995.


[Circuit schematic diagrams for EMG amplifiers and other projects are available in the book: Design and Development of Medical Electronic Instrumentation]


· If you need an expert on the control of exoskeletons or teleoperated limbs (telemedicine, laparoscopic instruments, surgical robots, virtual presence, etc.), look at Prof. Jacob Rosen’s page.


· Click here for information on the construction of a sensor array for measuring contact stresses between flexible bodies .  This sensor array can be used for robotic tactile sensing (to give robots high-resolution “touch vision”). [This is Paper #2 ]

“Sparkles” - Our Home-Lab Robot

Evolution Robotics ER1 basic robot
Evolution Robotics ER1 ChassisWheel drive of the Evolution Robotics ER1 robot chassis

Sparkles” - our lab robot - is based on an ER1 chassis by Evolution Robotics, Inc.  The ER1 platform has computer vision, hearing, speech, wireless networking, remote control, e-mail, autonomous mobility, gripping, and IR sensing capabilities. The ER1 kit is a sophisticated set of tools needed to build a smart robot.  The ER1 kit is a great foundation for starting a high-level hobby robot project.  CLICK HERE FOR A COOL VIDEO.  CLICK HERE FOR A DETAILED VIEW OF SPARKLES [PDF 333kB]

This is what other hobbyists have done with the ER1:

Evolution Robotics' ER1 kit contents

  We started to build Sparkles using the basic ER1 kit.  The basic kit comes with a drive system, aluminum extrusions and plastic connectors, a digital camera, a battery and a control module.  The robot requires a laptop to “live”. The laptop is installed on the robot frame itself and autonomously (or under manual control via the Internet) controls the movements and the behaviors of the machine.

"Sparkles" is our home-lab robot.  It is based on Evolution Robotics' ER1 chassis.  This picture shows the camera used for obstacle avoidance.Obstacle avoidance camera points toward floor.

We then added a SIIG CE0717 mobile webcam plus light (pointing towards the floor) for obstacle avoidance.

  Then we bought a few chassis expansion sets so that we could build a larger body for the robot.  Then we integrated tons of sensors that I have accumulated over the years…



Circuit Schematic Diagrams of ER1 / Sparkles Components

Power Module:  Evolution Robotics Battery Module 2.0

Click here for the (unofficial) ER1 Power Module Circuit schematic diagram [pdf]



mostly assembled frame

Robot Control Module:  Evolution Robotics RCM

Click here for (unofficial) hardware description of the ER1 RCM [pdf]



Wheel drive of the Evolution Robotics ER1 robot chassis

Drive: Shinano Kenshi SST58D3820 stepper driving gears

The platform moves using two 3.4 Volt 1.8 degree/step Shinano Kenshi SST58D3820 motors. These can be customer wired either as a bipolar or unipolar motors. Evolution Robotics supplies it in a bipolar winding.  Evolution Robotics recommends no more than 25lbs of payload added to the basic platform + laptop. The belts are XL belts with teeth spaced at 0.2 inches (McMaster 6484K12). The larger gear has 42 teeth (McMaster 57105K29), and the smaller gear has 10 teeth (McMaster 57105K11)

Gear and belt suppliers:,

Main Camera:  IREZ “KritterCam” webcam

The IREZ webcam is an aging model with a 350k Pixel CMOS sensor. It will image at 30 fps @ 320x240 (CIF), 15 fps @ (VGA) and 10 fps @ 640x480 (SVGA).  It has a sensitivity of 1 lux, adjustable focus (1” to infinity).  The optics are 1/3", F1.4 aperture, 53 degree field of view.


Obstacle Avoidance Camera:  SIIG CE0717 mobile webcam plus light

The SIIG MobileCam/Light is a very light-weight 1/7" 352 x 288 pixel CMOS PC Camera.  It captures up to 640 x 480 resolution at 30fps with a very clear image.

Obstacle avoidance camera points toward floor.

Building Sparkles

Come back often and watch Sparkles GROW!

At the moment, Sparkles has:


· 14Ah battery capacity and automatic-docking capability

· 4 DOF Arm

· Sensors:

· Floor-detection IR (so it won’t fall down the stairs)

· Forward-looking IR

· Backward-looking IR

· Right and Left side (45 degrees) IR

· Forward and backward looking sonar

· Logitech camera (main) on pan/tilt servo mount

· SIIG webcam (obstacle avoidance)

· Feelers

· 120dB 15kHz pain generator sirens (defense against unfriendly creatures)

· Servo-driven “mouth” and “eyebrows” to convey expression


About the name “Sparkles”…  My daughters outvoted me BIG TIME… Nuf’ said…