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Message no. 1
From: Patrick Goodman remo@***.net
Subject: [Nerps] [Stuff] Robotic Walker Frame, Draft 2 [Long]
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 1999 23:25:36 -0500
XS-3 Series Exoskeleton Walker Frame
Patrick E. Goodman <remo@***.net>
(>) Okay, so some of us have weird ways of relieving personal stress. I was
scanning through some medical supplies catalogs and similar literature the
other night, something that happens whenever one of my friends winds up in
the hospital (please don't ask what happens when they wind up in the morgue;
it's not pretty), and I saw this little doomaflage. While I was initially
drawn in by the rather whimsical name of the company, after reading the
flyer, it struck me as something that might be useful for a couple of
friends of mine who were, shall we say, incapacitated on the job. The
file's marked for read-write, as usual, so let us know what you think.
(>) Sysop Corona
Posted at 03:38:54 on 17 October 2059

(>) How's Manny, sweetheart? Pissed some of us off mightily when we heard
what happened. If it's any comfort, I did a little legwork and found the
skag that did that to him. I've made sure that he's retired from the field.
(>) Texas 2-Step
El Paso: Never surrender. Never forget. Never forgive.

(>) They've lost the arm, and they're probably going to have to replace his
left lung and the ribs on that side. They have to tread carefully, because
he's so wired up. He's been taken out of ICU for the moment, however, so
they think he's going to make it. Thanks for asking.

And 2-Step? About the retirement...thanks for that, too. I owe you a big
(>) Sysop Corona
Posted at 07:23:12 on 19 October 2059

(>) You're more than welcome, sweetheart, and you owe me nothing; this one
was on the house. I owed Manny that much, at least, so just chalk it up as
balancing the books.
(>) Texas 2-Step
El Paso: Never surrender. Never forget. Never forgive.

Shoebomb's Nifty Gizmos, Inc. -- XS-3 Series Exoskeleton Walker Frame

(>) All right, I hate to interrupt so soon, but I've gotta know:
"Shoebomb's Nifty Gizmos?" Where'd the name come from, and are we really
supposed to take any guy who'd name his company like that seriously?
(>) Johnny Reb

(>) Actually, Reb, the guy who named the company's a girl. SNG was founded
by a young lady named Siobhán Kane. She was the third of three kids; her
youngest brother is about six years older than she is, and he had trouble
pronouncing her kept coming out "shoo-BOM" instead of
She liked it, though, and it stuck. As for the "Nifty Gizmos" part...well,
that's what she builds. She invents things that may or may not have a
practical use, builds them, then passes them along to SNG's parent company
and let's them worry about finding a market for whatever it is.
(>) Aries

For decades, one of the hardest things to deal with after a serious injury
or major surgery has been the physical therapy required for an effective
recovery. It's an expensive proposition, for one; the vast majority of those
undergoing physical therapy are paralyzed, either due to injury or while
awaiting the activation of cybernetic implants such as wired reflexes. It
also has mixed effects on a patient's morale. While it's true that their
body is being kept as strong as possible during their recovery, if indeed
they are going to recover, most of the patients are unable to do much on
their own outside of therapy. The rest of the time, most sit around in
hospital beds, watching soap operas on the trid and feeling despair creep up
on them. Not being able to get around on their own helps to rob them of
motivation to get better.

A related, though not identical, problem is that some injuries conflict with
one another; the treatment of one might interfere with the treatment of
another, exacerbating the second as the first is treated. For instance, if
a patient breaks her pelvis and her leg, standard treatment regimens will
leave her immobile while the pelvis heals, leaving her legs very weak when
the time comes to do therapy after the leg heals.

Additionally, many of those paralyzed due to injury are either too poor to
afford the reconstructive cybersurgery to bypass spinal damage, or are
magically active and unable to accept cybernetic or bionetic replacements or
repairs. Some paralysis is caused not by spinal trauma, but by neurological
disorders that cannot be cured with the present state of medical technology
or magic.

(>) Someone wanna tell me what this says in English?
(>) Dixie Hick

(>) You missed out on a lot of intellectual stimulation growing up, didn't
you, child? It means that all the chrome in the world isn't worth its
weight in spit for a lot of people. Like the article said, most magicians
won't go that route, and an awful lot of people just can't afford it.
(>) Cloud Dancer
Give me land, lots of land, and the starry sky above....

(>) You expect me to buy that, chickie? How many street punks out there
have spurs or a smartlink? Those aren't exactly cheap.
(>) Dixie Hick

(>) You're comparing a 2,500¥ smartgun link, or even an 11K¥ retractable
spur system, and their respective surgical costs, to a 60K¥-plus spinal
bypass processor and _its_ surgical costs? And you can't take _me_
seriously? Tell me something: How easy is it for that gutterpunk to go
into the shadows and find a job that'll pay off the financing on his new
chrome in a week or two? Now how easy is it going to be for a wage-slave to
even find financing on something in the neighborhood of sixty times that
cost (after you factor in hospitalization, surgery, and other associated
costs)? It's not as easy or as cheap for most people as you want to believe
it is.
(>) Shoebomb
If Shoe builds it, it will run

(>) Especially given the fact that said wage-slave also has to get the
financing to support himself (and any dependents) for the months - or
years - he's likely to be off work afterwards, a factor the average
gutterpunk probably won't have to bother with.
(>) OpTik

The XS-3 series of exoskeleton walkers is designed to assist in both
physical therapy and in providing the patient with the means of getting
around on their own. The primary purpose of the machine, of course, is
physical therapy; it is pre-programmed with dozens of different movements to
maintain muscle tone and work through complete range of motion. A secondary
market also exists, however, in those individuals who are permanently
disabled, cannot accept cybernetic enhancement, and who seek an alternative
to wheelchairs as a means of moving about on their own.

The XS-3 utilizes a lightweight plasteel frame, driven by high-strength
electric servomotors, which in turn are powered by a series of high-density
flat-pack batteries, which line the inside surface of the machine. The
batteries also provide power to a dedicated computer system built into an
integrated belt pack. An electrode net headband reads neural impulses from
the patient's brain and then provides instructions to the computer, which in
turn drives the servomotor system and moves the walker.

(>) Bulldrek!! That's rigging, and you can't rig with a 'trode net, no how,
no way! This thing has got to be phony!
(>) Doozer

(>) For the record, Doozer, it's not phony. Someone nearly cut me in half
with an Ares HVAR back in March of 2055, and it did a number on my spinal
cord at the L3 vertebra. I'm paralyzed from the waist down, and I wear one
of these things every day of my life. I can assure you that it does work.
So can fourteen hospital rehab programs in Texas and Oklahoma that have
helped me with the field trials for the thing over the past eight months or

As for rigging with an electrode net: I never said you could. This isn't
rigging, exactly; it's more like simsense translation, especially when you
consider that I scavenged the 'trode net from a Fuchi Cabaret-3 induction
simrig to use on the XS-1p prototype. The net picks up the signals from
your brain that say you want to stand up from a chair, for instance; it
sends those signals to the onboard computer system, which then sends a
preprogrammed sequence of commands to the servomotors that tell the machine
to stand you up. A rigger becomes his vehicle; the motors and gears are a
part of him, and he can make each one do what he wants them to do. A
rigger-driven exoskeleton like this one would probably be built of smart
materials, with lots of extra options and speed. It would also be a lot
more graceful, and much less conspicuous...hmmmm, maybe I ought to think
about that sort of thing for paraplegic riggers....

The XS-3 doesn't give you much control over how it does it; all the actual
movements are programmed into the computer's EPROMs. I've made the
movements as fluid as I can, as real as I can, but it's not perfect. Yet.
I'm hoping that I can get better handling out of the XS-4.
(>) Shoebomb
If Shoe builds it, it will run

(>) Oops. Sorry; didn't realize this was such a personal project for you.
I didn't mean no offense. Mind if I ask you why you didn't get the cyber
bypass surgery?
(>) Doozer

(>) Apology accepted, and none taken. I get that reaction from a lot of
riggers, so I'm kind of used to it by now. I didn't get the spinal bypass
because I'm an adept, and I like my Talent just the way it is; the gunshot
that put me in this contraption messed with it quite enough, thanks.
(>) Shoebomb
If Shoe builds it, it will run

There are three basic models of the XS-3 exoskeleton. The XS-3p is for the
lower body only, from the waist down. The XS-3q is for quadriplegic
injuries where the patient still has control of his head and neck; it
features individually articulated fingers, though their dexterity is not
very high. The XS-3n is the same unit as the XS-3q, with the addition of a
neck brace and articulation; this unit is for high-neck injury patients who
cannot move their heads without aid.

The following table outlines the costs and pricing for the various models of
the XS-3 exoskeleton. The prices shown are for human-sized units; prices
for troll-sized or dwarf-sized units are slightly higher.

Weight Availability Cost Street Index Legality
XS-3p 10.0 4/14 days 11,500¥ 1 Legal
XS-3q 14.5 4/14 days 14,000¥ 1 Legal
XS-3n 15.5 4/14 days 15,400¥ 1 Legal

(>) These things ain't priced any better than that set of spurs I was
talking about. What's that you were saying about them being affordable?
(>) Dixie Hick

(>) Y'know, Hick, it's trogs like you that give the South a bad name, boy.
(>) Tara

(>) Something to point out is that the primary purpose of the XS-3 is
therapy, not as a day-to-day means of getting about (secondary markets and
Ms. Kane's use of the device notwithstanding). The primary markets for
these are hospitals and rehabilitation programs, though it's known that many
private individuals will want to own it themselves for daily use. Most
hospitals, both public and private, can budget the cost of a few of these
units without much effort. Ms. Kane, for obvious personal reasons, is
dedicated to making sure that these units are available to anyone who needs
them, however; for private individuals and families wishing to own a unit,
either for personal mobility or home-based therapy, Ms. Kane has specified
that no-interest loans should be made available to those who need them
through SNG's parent company, Rogue Star Enterprises, and the RSE Board of
Directors has agreed unanimously with that specification.
(>) RSE Public Relations Group

(>) Well that would explain why I haven't ever seen one of these in public.
Just how common are these units? Or more importantly, would the guards at
the Renraku Arcology know how to search a walking frame for weapons? They
are distressingly adept at finding them on standard wheelchairs.
(>) Chaos Engineer
Better living through designed entropy

(>) I'm not at home right now, so I don't have the exact stats, but I've got
over 140 units in rehab programs in 14 different hospitals across the CAS
and UCAS for the field trials, orders from 30-some-odd other hospitals in a
dozen different countries for a total of close to 700 units (off the top of
my head), and a couple hundred in private hands in three countries so far.
Considering I've had the XS-3 ready for only about five months, I'm pretty
jazzed. As for knowing how to search for weapons, I can't speak for
security at the Arcology, but I know that the guards at the Loew's Resort
Hotel in Dallas know how.
(>) Shoebomb
If Shoe builds it, it will run

The inner surfaces of the XS-3 exoskeleton are lined with the flat-pack
batteries that provide it with power. The battery packs are, in turn, lined
with gel-pack padding and lycra to prevent chafing and irritation, something
many patients wouldn't be able to notice and which could lead to severe
infection if left unchecked. While the exoskeleton has a wide range of
adjustment, it is not one-size-fits-all; the system comes in small, medium,
and large sizes within each metatype, with special units for children
available on request. SNG will custom-fit the system to the patient upon
request; in keeping with the company's philosophy of making these units
available at a low cost, the surcharge for custom fitting the unit is only
10% instead of the industry's more typical 75% to 100% surcharge for

Another optional attachment, useful for users who suffer chronic pain in
their extremities, is an electro-analgesic web. Designed as a sort of
low-level electronic form of acupuncture, the EAW is a series of electrodes
placed on the patient's skin over nerve centers. Once in place, a low-level
electrical current is run through the electrodes and the patient's nerves in
order to alleviate pain. The major drawback is that it drains power from
the main power cells of the walker.

(>) And it really works, too. Just be careful; if the current is turned on
too high, you could get a little blistered. I fell asleep in mine one day,
and nearly barbecued myself....
(>) Lady J

Typical times to put on and take off one of these units vary widely. The 3q
and 3n models, of course, require a second person to assist the patient into
and out of the walker, where the 3p model can be mounted and dismounted by
the patient alone. Mount and dismount times for the 3p range from 20
minutes for beginners to about 5 minutes for experienced riders; for the 3q
and 3n, beginners can expect to spend up to 35 minutes or so getting a
patient into the machine, while experienced aides can get a patient up and
ready in about 12 minutes.

At full strength, the battery packs will last from about eight hours to as
long as twelve, depending on the model and the extent of use. The recharge
system can fully charge the entire system in the space of about three hours;
the charger is located within the chair/docking station (which is included
in the cost of the system).

(>) For the record, since I know that some people out there are curious:
3.5 minutes on, 3 minutes off, and my batteries tend to last about 11 hours
before they geek out (I don't always move around a lot at work). I've also
had lots of practice in getting into and out of this thing; the five minute
mark stated above is pretty accurate, near as I can tell.

A few pointers, since some things just can't be formatted into a catalog ad.

First, you're not going to be running any marathons wearing one of these.
For that matter, you're not going to be running, period. I'm working on
making the XS-4 a bit more agile, but for now the unit will walk. Keeping
your balance is fairly easy, but you have to learn not to over-extend when
you're reaching for something on a shelf. If you're wearing a 3q or a 3n,
you're also not going to be doing any intricate needlework.

Just as a precaution, always wear something underneath this, padding or no
padding, and if you're like me and have no sensation in your extremities,
either examine yourself or have someone else do it. If you end up chafing
and it gets infected, it can kill you. Ask Robert Wadlow, the tallest
pre-Awakening human on record, since that was how he died. I generally wear
a leotard underneath the frame, and some big baggy pants over the top of it.
No matter what you do to decorate it, this thing is just plain ugly.

Which brings me to my last point: This thing is also fairly obvious. The
movements are all pre-programmed, and while as fluid as I can make them at
the moment, are still mechanical. Not as bad as, say, _Robocop_, but they
lack spontaneity.
(>) Shoebomb
If Shoe builds it, it will run

(>) How do the walkers transfer from full computer control to no control as
the operator improves? If someone were to shut the unit off, assuming that
they could at that point move on their own, will the walker significantly
hamper their movement? Do the motors lock up when there is no power going
to them?
(>) Imaginary Invalid
Confusion is you friend, as long as you can control it

(>) In a rehab situation, the therapist can temporarily interrupt the
computerized movement routines to see how well the patient is progressing,
and make any necessary adjustments. Most of the people who get this for
private use aren't likely to be in the "improving" category, I'm afraid, so
it's kind of a moot point. Those private individuals that are in the
"improving" category will also have their own private therapists, so they
get the same treatment as rehab patients in hospitals. I strapped my
brother into one of these to test what happens when the power goes away; he
could still get around, but told me it was like walking through waist-deep
taffy, and Bubby's in good shape. I fear that most people wearing this
won't fare nearly so well.
(>) Shoebomb
If Shoe builds it, it will run


This is an almost purely role-playing-oriented piece of gear; it has
virtually no statistical advantage to offer. It enables a character to,
temporarily at least, overcome the Flaws Paraplegic or Quadriplegic (as
found in the _Shadowrun Companion_).

Any of the XS-3 exoskeletons changes a character's Quickness to 3 for
purposes of movement. There is no running modifier for characters wearing
an XS-3; the system only allows the character to walk, with a movement rate
of 3. The XS-3q and XS-3n models also have articulated fingers; a
character's Quickness for purposes of manual dexterity tests is set at 1.

These exoskeletons may, at GM's discretion, offer 1 point of Impact armor.
The gel-packs lining the exoskeleton for padding can, if the GM is feeling
generous, be replaced (at the character's expense, of course) with the
gel-pack armor from _Fields of Fire_, providing the suit with the
appropriate armor ratings. Of course, it would also have the appropriate

If in place and active, the electro-analgesic web will sap around 5%-10% of
the suit's available power (reduce the available time left on the suit's
batteries by 3-6 minutes/hour). An EAW is not a cure-all for pain; it
merely alleviates the worst pain associated with the physical therapy,
making the whole process a bit easier to bear. The EAW has no effect on a
character's damage level. This additional accessory costs an addition 500¥.

For purposes of determining Load requirements, the suit may carry its
occupant without penalty. Additional gear and equipment load should be
determined as if the character has Strength of 4. Instead of accruing stun
damage, however, the suit's battery duration begins to fall as per the
movement rate reductions listed in the "Hauling the Load" section of _SR3_,
page 274. For instance, if a character would have his Movement rate reduced
to one-quarter its normal rating, then the suit's battery power is reduced
to one-quarter its original capacity (6 + 1d6 hours, or GM's discretion).
If the suit runs out of power away from its charger, the character is
effectively immobilized until he can restore power or he can get out of the

(>) Texas 2-Step
El Paso: Never surrender. Never forget. Never forgive.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed reading about [Nerps] [Stuff] Robotic Walker Frame, Draft 2 [Long], you may also be interested in:


These messages were posted a long time ago on a mailing list far, far away. The copyright to their contents probably lies with the original authors of the individual messages, but since they were published in an electronic forum that anyone could subscribe to, and the logs were available to subscribers and most likely non-subscribers as well, it's felt that re-publishing them here is a kind of public service.