Canadian technology company Mawashi has formally introduced their flagship product: A passive exoskeleton designed to help the soldier carry his heavy load. The exoskeleton is reportedly based on research into how the human body distributes weight, studying obese individuals like the rikishi wrestlers in sumo, to create a solution for the infantryman to carry heavy loads without injury. The company’s name – Mawashi – even comes from the stiff mawashi wrestling belts used in sumo.
The Mawashi UPRISE tactical exoskeleton is (and I swear this isn’t deliberate on my part) the third soldier strength enhancing device to reach the public eye this month. The UPRISE exoskeleton is a passive suit designed to assist the infantryman’s ability to carry heavy loads structurally, rather than through the use of a power assist. This means that while the UPRISE may allow the soldier to carry heavier loads without injury, its tradeoff is a further reduction of the soldier’s power to weight ratio, as the soldier’s muscles remain the only active power available to him – and he must haul the suit as well as his other gear.
Still, for some applications, unpowered exoskeletons hold some promise. Russian sappers are already using passive structural exoskeletons in the field to assist them in carrying their equipment and armor. While I personally do not see unpowered exoskeletons aiding the basic infantry very much, they are still an important step towards the “holy grail” of true powered armor suits. As of yet, the true powered exoskeleton remains out of reach – not because of a major deficiency in the design of the suits themselves, but due to insufficiently dense power sources (such as batteries) that would make the suits worthwhile.