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A robot mannequin with the power to walk, march and mimic the movements of a soldier has been unveiled by the British Ministry of Defense. The ’Porton Man’, which cost £1.1m, has been created to allow scientists to test protective suits designed to protect UK personnel from chemical and biological attacks.
Innovative technology enables the robot to move its head, allowing a better range of movement, and special sensors have been placed on its body allowing scientists to carry out real-time analysis while testing. The Ministry of Defense said the new mannequin, built using Formula 1 technology, is unique to the UK, which is leading the way in testing. It will be used by scientists at the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in Porton Down Wiltshire, who test clothing worn by soldiers to protect them against chemical warfare.
The Porton Man is much lighter than its predecessor and even has removable thumbs, making it easier to put gloves on. It also features ankles that can flex.
Chief executive Jez Gibson-Harris said they were tasked with producing a lightweight robotic mannequin based on data collected from 2,500 soldiers. Ultimately, the mannequin should be easy to handle and should feature a wide range of movement.
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“Of course there were a number of challenges associated with this and one way we looked to tackle these challenges was through the use of Formula One technology,” Gibson-Harris told the Standard. “Using the same concepts as those used in racing cars, we were able to produce very light but highly durable carbon composite body parts for the mannequin.”
Minister for Defense equipment, support and technology Philip Dunne said: “This technology, designed by a British company, is enabling the UK to lead the way through this important testing.” Dunne further added that “Increased investment in science and technology by the MoD is not only enabling battle-winning and lifesaving equipment to be developed but also helping innovative companies like i-bodi Technology to develop cutting edge capability.”
Dstl official Jaime Cummins said: “Significant advances in animatronics, material design and sensing technologies have all been incorporated into this new Porton Man mannequin.” He further added that “as a result, we will be able to assess and characterize protective clothing in ways which were not previously possible.”