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I am indebted to a commenter on yesterday’s skeletonics post for reminding me of G. John Dick and Eric A. Edwards’ SpringWalker spring-assisted lower-body exoskeleton. Using the slightly half-baked terms I proposed yesterday, the SpringWalker is another notable example of a “passive” exoskeleton, i.e. one that amplifies the speed and range of a motion, but does not actually add power. An oldie but a goodie, the SpringWalker was patented back in 1991, when the term of a US patent was still 17 years, and is thus now out of patent. [Thanks, DanYHKim!]

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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  1. lukeg says:

    OH MAN! I have been wondering about this, and if I would ever be able to find anything on it online. I saw a news segment or something on this back in 1990, but couldn’t remember what it was called. My random searches led me to some interesting things, like super bocks and the like, but nothing I found was actually what I remembered seeing…. until now! :)

  2. Alan says:

    I also remembered this one, but had forgotten the name of it. Thanks for the link, Sean. Now for a question: why didn’t this thing ever take off? The web site for it looks like it was built in about 1996, and I’m not seeing any recent developments.

    I can think of a couple of potential problems, of course. First, it looks like a poorly placed pothole or curb could send the rider into a mechanically-assisted face-plant. Second, it might have hit the “Segway problem,” in that there’s an existing technology (bicycles) that already kicks its butt as a form of transportation. Nonetheless, it would probably be great fun for a few laps around the park.

    1. clide says:

      A much simpler and lighter design is being used to accomplish the same idea. Look up “jumping stilts”. They are basically just a leaf spring attached to a boot. Keep in mind that they don’t really make running much easier, they just allow you to put more work into it.