Exoskeletons are some pretty stellar tools. Exhibit A: Panasonic is planning to release an exoskeleton for sale in September. It’s not going to let you do Matt-Damon-in-Elysium shit, but it gives you some added strengths that your feeble human body otherwise lacks.
The Assist Suit AWN-03, developed by Panasonic subsidiary ActiveLink, is designed for your average adult and attaches to shoulders, waist, and legs. It weighs only 13 lbs, but allows users to carry an additional 33 lbs on top of their average load.
Sensors embedded in the suit are meant to send signals to motors to automatically adjust to shifts in load and reduce the energy the user needs. The aim is to help take as much stress off the operator’s back as possible.
The company is also testing a more-advanced version that is meant to let users carry 220 lbs in extra weight, for forestry work in Japan.
Initially, the company will be renting out the exoskeleton for around $5700. The steep price means that it’s more likely to be initially adopted by wealthier companies whose workers handle heavy-yet-fragile equipment. Think high-end computer makers, server farms, robotics manufacturers, etc.
Exoskeleton research has been going on for nearly a decade now, with applications in military activities (like sharpshooting), medicine (such as giving paraplegics the ability to walk or helping those with neurological disorders maintain better motor control), and other industrial benefits. It’s going to be a while before the devices are cheap enough for most businesses and individuals to buy, but that time is coming soon, and this new suit is just the beginning.
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