Coolest wearable technology: Robot suits for physical labor

This semi-robotic suit gives workers super-human strength, and hints at the huge enterprise market for wearables.

080414 robot suit
Daewoo, New Scientist

Last year, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Engineering tested robotic suits that give workers superhuman strength to handle heavy objects at its facility in Okpo-dong, South Korea, according to a recent report in the New Scientist.

In the tests, the suits made it easier for the workers to lift and carry 30-kilogram (slightly more than 66 pounds) objects, although the researchers told the New Scientists that the current target is to extend the lifting capacity to 100 kilograms, slightly more than 220 pounds.

Although the suits themselves weigh about 62 pounds, they’re designed to anticipate and respond to the wearer’s physical movements so they never feel like they’re trying to move around in a massive exoskeleton. The prototype of the suit holds a three-hour battery life, which is already quite impressive – three hours of more efficient work with heavy material could open up much more time for the workers to complete their other tasks – and comes equipped with other tools for lifting and manipulating heavy objects.

Even in its limited prototype stage, Daewoo’s robotic suit is definitely one of the coolest applications of wearable technology and robotics, and it’s further proof that the enterprise market could be the more fruitful one for wearables. Although consumer wearables like Google Glass, Fitbit, and the impending deluge of smart watches attract more headlines and buzz, those in manufacturing and other industries can benefit from the recent advances in wearable technology. Given the business case for wearables in the enterprise – say, the ability to forecast cost reduction and efficiency and productivity gains – enterprise customers may be far more likely to invest in the technology.

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