Exoskeletons as a Service

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I think of cars as powered exoskeletons. They are shells. They make us almost almighty. Ever seen The Godfather? These are really bad guys wearing nice clothes. They walk and behave according to the suits they wear. Do you change – even a little – your personality when you drive? Are you more aggressive? A better citizen on wheels? I believe that what covers us seems to define our attitude. Cars are no exception. See it this way: we “wear” our cars as powered exoskeletons when we order at McDonald’s drive-thru, when we easily move heavy stuff from point A to point B, and when weather conditions don’t stop us from getting to the mall. Of course, my cars-as-exoskeletons vision suffers when what’s needed is accuracy to grab fine tools to perform most technical jobs. Size matters in this world and I guess this is one of the reasons we tend to think of cars only as a transportation means. A two-ton exoskeleton doesn’t sound like a very sexy proposition, but the hardware and software to change this perception are already here. When I met Dr. Thad Starner in 2001, he used to walk everywhere carrying rudimentary – state-of-the-art back then – peripherals all somehow plugged to his prototype miniscreen one inch away from his right eye. He is one of the founding fathers of the wearable computing field and this is years before he worked with Larry and Sergei on what the world then knew as the Google Glass project. Do not think of your car as a car. It has always been more than that. A mobile love-making hotel room. A not very cozy shelter. A storage unit. That has been the case for many decades. Our cars are becoming things we will be barely able to describe. Ford is testing an idea to get its cars to make water. Yes. Drinking water. See? Things are changing. And do not think your iPhone is an electronics device. It is an expensive clothing accessory. You would rather forget your jewels at home. What I am trying to convey here is that the finesse of ideas like Google Glass + the mastery of design and performance by car automakers like Tesla + the global capabilities and resources of the Apples of the world are taking us to new ecosystems where stylish wearables and exoskeletons are becoming the norm. We don’t notice any of this because we are more comfortable with familiar names for everyday things than with futuristic concepts. Perhaps it’s time to try to see things under a new light.

By Aaron Benitez