Fifty years ago, GE engineer and robotics pioneer Ralph Mosher presented a groundbreaking paper at the Automotive Engineering Congress in Detroit. “Man and machine can be combined into an intimate, symbiotic unit that will perform essentially as one wedded system,” he wrote. “The adaptive, reflex control of man can be transmitted directly to a mechanism so that the mechanism responds as though it were a natural extension of the man. …Moreover, environments that are normally hostile to a human do not affect the machine.”
Mosher succeeded in building a powerful exoskeleton that could lift 1,500 pounds — he called it the Hardiman — but his man-machine combo remained a view of the future and never became a viable product.