But there have been a few items found that are interesting. Recently I saw a TV thing, Stephen Hawking's PBS series that featured ideas from Science Fiction authors, in this case, Robert Heinlein. The segment was about exoskeletons which he predicted in one of his novels. The show had clips and interviews with a former paratrooper who had been injured in a jump that damaged his spine. His response was to set out to develop his own powered exoskeleton, the LIFESUIT and he has a website called They Shall Walk to spread the word.
Its a clunky crude thing and in the video, he uses manual valves to control the legs, but the interesting thing is, its air powered. It has a SCUBA tank to provide the air pressure. With a few sensors, a computer and controllable valves, he will really have something. YouTube has lots more videos of it.
And one more item caught my eye, flexible, high-strength polymer aerogels. I've actually held the silicon version in my hand. Incredible stuff with fascinating properties but so far too expensive and limited for many applications. So now, this new aerojel comes along. When you are thinking about how to build a very light very strong device, this has to grab your attention.
"A new class of mechanically robust polymer aerogels discovered at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio may soon enable engineering applications such as super-insulated clothing, unique filters, refrigerators with thinner walls, and super-insulation for buildings."
“The new aerogels are up to 500 times stronger than their silica counterparts,” says Meador. “A thick piece actually can support the weight of a car. And they can be produced in a thin form, a film so flexible that a wide variety of commercial and industrial uses are possible.”
"Applications in clothing as well as insulation of pipes, buildings, water heaters, and the like are enabled by these materials. Tents and sleeping bags can also benefit from the combination of light weight and thermal insulation. NASA is even considering the new polymer aerogels for use as inflatable heat shields. The practicality of many such applications will depend on the cost of polymer aerogel in commercial quantities. In any case, these types of products now have another dimension of design flexibility."