MIT engineers have developed a robotic exoskeleton that transfers most of the weight of a backpack straight to the ground. The add-on carries 80 percent of the load, and could prove beneficial for soldiers carrying heavy packs.

In the long run, Hugh Herr, the leader of the research group, also hopes the technology could evolve into assistive devices that could help anyone. Someone with a disability could use them to walk normally, for example. This sort of work has been done before, but the MIT team managed to develop a device that swallows much less power, and is therefore much closer to being practical. For now, they’re focused in part on engineering it to allow for a more natural gait. —Gregory Mone