The first attempt to build a practical powered exoskeleton, by American company General Electric between 1965 and 1971. The machine was intended to allow the wearer to lift loads of 1,500 pounds (680 kg) with ease.
The project was led by the engineer Ralph Mosher, who had previously worked on a powered arm named Handyman, but was not successful overall. Mosher wrote of these difficulties in designing a powerful machine functioning as an extension of the human body, noting that a machine lacking the ability to receive and interpret force feedback would be very likely cause the machine to destroy whatever object it was interacting with in performing the task at hand. Any attempt to use the full exoskeleton effectively resulted in a violent uncontrolled motion. According to General Electric’s Hardiman Project Report from 1969, “when turned on power to operate the shoulder joint, the arm lurched and the elbow would not operate.” As a result, the Hardiman was never turned on with a person inside.
Further research in the 1970s concentrated on one arm. Although it could lift its specified load of 750 pounds (340 kg), it weighed three quarters of a ton, just over twice the liftable load; practical uses were thus limited.