Robotics Engineering Excellence (RE2) has secured a contract to develop an exoskeleton simulator for the US Army, as part of the Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme.

The biomechanical simulator will calculate the effects of wearable robotic devices on soldiers’ musculoskeletal health.

Under the terms of the $1m contract, the company will develop the software to help the army analyse the benefits of exoskeletons and predict potential injuries.

Phase II of the programme aims to develop a simulation tool that will reveal the muscle stresses, joint loads, and metabolic load that soldiers are subjected to with and without the use of a robotic exoskeleton.

"Our simulator will help to identify potential injury mechanisms and issues before any large-scale deployment of the device."

RE2 president and CEO Jorgen Pedersen said: "By directly modelling the interaction between a human user and the exoskeleton, our simulator will help to identify potential injury mechanisms and issues before any large-scale deployment of the device, ultimately reducing injuries while saving the army time and money."

The contract will see the company collaborate with Ekso Bionics neuromusculoskeletal simulation leader Dr Scott Delp, Dr Jennifer Hicks of Stanford University, and the University of Pittsburgh’s human engineering research laboratories to design and test the simulator.

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In 2015, RE2 secured a grant from the army to develop technology for wounded combat casualty extraction and evacuation missions.

Awarded by the US Army SBIR Office and the US Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), the funding required the company to develop a new medical module payload for future military ground systems.

Image: An exoskeleton. Photo: courtesy of DARPA.