Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The military copies art, again

In 1999 Australian performance artist Stelarc demonstrated modified bodily agency through his invention of the Exoskeleton, a mechanical hydraulic and electronic extension of his body, which changed the nature of his mobility and in various experiments, expanded the ability of his individual digits on his hands to grasp finer and smaller things through mini digits on the tips of each.

I'm not sure how long this video will be available, but CNN has a video report on a Utah company, Sarcos, which is manufacturing exoskeletons for military use, and the report is chock full of unqualified fascination and celebration for the developments. In the absence of Stelarc's uncanny emphases on the distortion of the human element in such hybrids, this report on Sarcos seems like a commercial for ED-209, the fictional robotic law enforcement robot that went awry with murderous malfunction in the film Robocop. Anyway, check out this link to the hyped-up next generation military technology for robotic hybrids for military use. No mention of cost, or the effect on the human operator over time, but something tells me a day spent in the exoskeleton leaves the operator somehow changed.

Here's Stelarc demonstrating his Exoskeleton in 1999. Keep in mind that he typically drives the legs and other attachments with voluntary muscles from unrelated places in his body. For example, his third hand, which he performs with often, is driven by abdominal and leg muscles, not by his arm or hand muscles.

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