TitanArm already took home silver in a competition for senior projects at the University of Pennsylvania, and now the team behind it is visiting Orlando to compete in the Intel-sponsored Cornell Cup for embedded design. We stopped by the showroom and snagged a few minutes with the crew to take a look at their creation: an 18-pound, untethered, self-powered exoskeleton arm constructed for less than $2,000.
To wield the contraption, users attach the cable-driven mechanical appendage to themselves with straps from a military-grade hiking backpack, and guide it with a thumbstick on a nunchuck-like controller. If a load needs to be held in place, the wearer can jab a button on the hand-held control to apply a brake. A Beagle Bone drives the logic for the setup, and it can stream data such as range of motion wirelessly to a computer. As for battery-life, they group says the upper-body suit has previously squeezed out over 24 hours of use without having to recharge.
When it comes to real-world applications, the machine's creators envision the low-cost gear can be used for physical therapy, help those who are disabled and assist workers who pick up heavy loads. The minds behind TitanArm are heading to grad school, and they plan to add a second arm, work on powered shoulder joints and ditch the current controls in favor of sensors that move the arm when muscle activity is registered. Check out the bordering gallery for photos of the device or hit the jump to catch a chat with its designers and see it in action.