Is this exoskeleton the equivalent of an e-bike for runners, scramblers and ramblers?

The Hypershell Omega combines electronics, robotics and AI to provide runners and hikers with 1-horsepower of smart assistance across all kinds of terrain

Imagine, while you’re out on a trail run or taking on a tough hiking route, being able to strap on a high-tech hip-based harness that can deliver you the power of a horse to charge up steep accents and across even the trickiest terrain.

Sounds similar to something from a James Cameron movie, like a precursor of the Amplified Mobility Platforms used in Avatar, but science fiction often becomes science fact, and Hypershell have developed an exoskeleton they promise is capable of delivering all of the above and more.

Hypershell Omega exoskeleton

The one-size Hypershell harness can be adjusted to fit various hip dimensions and to incorporate various types of outdoor clothing

(Image credit: Hypershell)

One step beyond

The 1-horsepower Hypershell Omega exoskeleton weighs 1.8kg but effectively offsets 30kg of weight as it powers runners, scramblers and ramblers over vertiginous landscapes at speeds of up to 12mph/20kmph. According to the designers of the unit, when used in ‘Hyper mode’, the Hypershell provides up to 20 times more power output than the average body employs while running or hiking.

Powered by rechargeable 18650 lithium batteries and a specially developed M-one motor, the Hypershell has an in-use range of 16 miles (25.75km), but you don’t have to wear it constantly because, with a carrying volume of 6.5L, it folds down and fits into most backpacks. The lightweight alloy frame is weatherproof, rated to IP54 (so not submergible, but rain resistant).

Hypershell Omega exoskeleton

The Hypershell Omega is powered by rechargeable 18650 lithium batteries

(Image credit: Hypershell)

Where running meets robotics 

Manufacturers say the AI-equipped smart unit actually learns how you move in various scenarios and then calculates the optimal output required to assist you to travel faster, automatically toggling through 9 settings to smoothly adjust your power-assisted speed up to 12mph.

Using ‘Adaptive Motion Recognition’, the Hypershell can analyse nine different postures at a rate of 200 times per second, and then, using its AI dynamic adaptive engine, the product recognises and switches between suitable modes during the activity. Effectively, once you switch it on and start moving, you have a co-pilot helping you adjust your speed.

Hypershell Omega exoskeleton

The M-one motor employed by the Hypershell Omega has been specially developed for high-performance wearable robot tech

(Image credit: Hypershell)

Hypershell Omega exoskeleton specifications

  • Dimensions: Length 510mm, Width 400mm, Height 50mm
  • Net Weight: about 1800g with two batteries
  • Power: The Hypershell uses rechargeable and replaceable 18650 lithium batteries with a charge cycle of over 800 times
  • Maximum step speed: about 20km/h (12.4mph)
  • Motor-rated power: 800W
  • Integrated range: about 25km (16 miles)
  • Operating temperature: -10℃ to 45℃
  • Weatherproof level: IP54

Is this the start of a e-running revolution?

The potential applications for the Hypershell exoskeleton are broad. There are clear potential benefits for trail runners, hikers, climbers, backpackers and travellers who want some extra assistance to go further and explore more, but also for people with limited mobility and professionals such as photographers and outdoor medics who need to carry heavy gear across challenging terrain, often at speed.

But, in a recreational setting, is it cheating? Well, the same was said about the best e-bikes when they were first developed, but now there’s a massive market for them alongside standard bikes. People will choose how and where to effectively and ethically use such technical assistance, but it might well give Strava moderators a few headaches if speed ascent records suddenly start to tumble.

We're certainly itching to put the Hypershell exoskeleton through its paces - or rather, for it to put us through our paces. Watch this space. The unit has attracted £100k in funding on Kickstarter so far and is expected to retail at between US$299 and US$599, depending on the model selected.

Pat Kinsella
Freelance outdoor writer

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat Kinsella has been writing about outdoor pursuits and adventure sports for two decades. In pursuit of stories he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked across the Norwegian Alps, run ultras across the roof of Mauritius and through the hills of the Himalayas, and set short-lived speed records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. A former editor of several Australian magazines he’s a longtime contributor to publications including Sidetracked, Outdoor, National Geographic Traveller, Trail Running, The Great Outdoors, Outdoor Fitness and Adventure Travel, and a regular writer for Lonely Planet (for whom he compiled, edited and co-wrote the Atlas of Adventure, a guide to outdoor pursuits around the globe). He’s authored guides to exploring the coastline and countryside of Devon and Dorset, and recently wrote a book about pub walks. Follow Pat's adventures on Strava and instagram.