Opinions & Editorials

Goat Exoskeleton

Photo: Tim Bowditch via NY Post
Photo: Tim Bowditch via NY Post

Definitely one of the strangest exoskeleton projects, a London designer has created an orthotic that turns him into a goat.  This wearable, which has gone through multiple revisions and includes some quite complicated engineering, allows its user to move on all fours like an Alpine goat.  Its creator, Thomas Thwaites, wanted to spend one week in the mountains removed not only from civilization but from humanity itself.

Thomas spent a lot of time and effort researching how to move like a goat, how to eat like a goat and how to think like a goat.  For each of these challenges he came up with a technological solution; some worked and some didn’t.  To move like a goat, the designer was fitted with an exoskeleton that allows him to traverse more naturally bent down on both his arms and legs.  To eat like a goat he first came up with a bacterial cocktail that can digest grass, but the risk of permanent bacterial infection was too great to implement.  Finally, to think like a goat Thomas tried electrical stimulation that would inhibit higher brain function such as forming words.

 TIM BOWDITCH / COURTESY OF PRINCETON ARCHITECTURAL PRESS via <a href="http://kuow.org/post/when-being-human-got-his-goat-designer-became-one"> KUOW.org </a>
Nicholas Yagn 1980 Exoskeleton Patent
Nicholas Yagn 1980 Exoskeleton Patent

Looking at the various iterations of the goat exoskeleton is like looking at the history of all exoskeleton development.  At the start, it is a confused contraption that allows the wearer to stand on their arms and legs but is far too impractical to do much of anything else.  Then, in the next revision the weight of the orthotic is decreased and there are large elastic elements that curve from one end of the exoskeleton to the other.  This is very similar to some of the initial exoskeleton patents especially the one by Nicholas Yagn from 1889 (right).  The final design looks surprisingly modern.  The hind part is very reminiscent of the Passive Ankle Exoskeleton while the front looks like a pair of modern prosthetics.

In an interview with Scott Simin from NPR: “Thomas Thwaites says his exoskeleton was meant to help him feel like a goat, as opposed to helping him look like one.”

It would appear that this London designer has tapped into the full potential of the exoskeleton industry.  Exoskeletons have the potential to make people feel differently.  Exoskeletons for work and industry such as FORTIS and Ekso Works can make the user feel they are holding a tool that has inertia but no weight.  Lift and carry assist exos such as the Laevo can reduce the strain on the back muscles.  A chairless chair can make you feel as if you are sitting while standing.  A DIY (do it yourself) exoskeleton can be used to lift a car and make you feel like an action hero.  The reverse is also true with hindering exoskeletons such as the R70i Aging Experience that makes the user feel old.  And now we have an exoskeleton that makes you feel like a goat!

The goat exoskeleton is an odd project, but it is a great example of an exoskeleton device empowering its user to do something that they wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise.


Thomas Thwaites has written a book on his adventure of becoming a goat and it can be found on Amazon.com GoatMan-Took-Holiday-Being-Human.


‘I was fed up with life so went and lived like a goat in Swiss Alps and I’m not kidding’, says designer – Mirror, May 13, 2016, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/i-fed-up-life-went-7956015

KUOW, May 15, 2016, When Being Human Got His Goat, This Designer Became One, http://kuow.org/post/when-being-human-got-his-goat-designer-became-one

APPARATUS FOR FACILITATING WALKING, RUNNING, AND JUMPING. No. 420,179. Patented Jan. 28, 1890.v NICHOLAS YAGN, OF ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA https://www.google.com/patents/US420179



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