When the French General Directorate for Armament wanted to develop an exoskeleton to aid humans in handling heavy workloads, it enlisted the help of engineering company RB3D. The result is Hercule, a robotic exoskeleton that can help users shoulder up to 220 pounds. First shown off at last year's MILIPOL exhibition, Hercule is a system driven completely by the motion of the user wearing the device: movements by the legs are monitored by the exoskeleton, and the mechanics follow suit. Designed to weigh in at under 55 pounds, the battery-powered exoskeleton can provide a range of up to 12.4 miles (at a regular walking pace) under a single charge.
Hercule does reminds us quite a bit of the early work of Berkeley Bionics (now Ekso Bionics), which recently showed off an exoskeleton aimed at helping the disabled walk. Hercule, however, is focused on military, rescue, and medical field use. While the suit currently only utilizes reinforcements for the legs, RB3D is developing a mechanized arm component to aid users in directly lifting heavy objects as well. The exoskeleton is scheduled to be marketed as soon as 2014.