On July 26 of this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved the very first exoskeleton suit to be effectively used by those suffering from paralysis. The exoskeleton suit is known as ReWalk, a motorized device that straps around the legs and waist to help its wearer to walk, sit, and stand with minimal assistance.
Outside that of the U.S., however – and, in fact, outside that of the medical industry in general – exoskeleton suits are now being applied to heavy lifting for Korean shipyard workers at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME). Current prototypes are allowing the workers to lift up 65-pound objects with relative ease and move around as normal. Newer models, though, are being developed to allow workers to lift up nearly 4x more in weight.
According to the study conducted on this experimental exoskeleton suit, The Experiments of Wearable Robot for Carrying Heavy-Weight Objects of Shipbuilding Works, it was concluded that “the wearable robot could be helpful for assisting workers in several shipbuilding workplaces.” Indeed, these Korean workers are the closest thing to Iron Man, and with that comes abilities which will not only be helpful to them, but also revolutionary insofar as how it’ll overwhelmingly affect the global workforce in the coming years. In fact, the DSME aren’t stopping with exoskeleton suits!
“As one of the 4 areas of its Vision 2020 strategy (shipbuilding, marine engineering, plant, and energy), DSME is pushing ahead with the development, application and commercialization of high-performance robots and specialty robots which are essential to improve productivity, based on the company’s core technologies including small-size/light-weight and robust design, intelligent sensor system, real-time control, and integrated system operation.” – DSME
As I mentioned in a previous article of mine, “Yesteryear’s “Disabled” Are Today’s Augmented,” we are fast approaching a paradigm shift in both thinking and living. Those we label “disabled” are now reaching technological heights which are allowing them to embrace, not just an able-bodied state, but an augmented state of being as well. These suits will certainly have military applications as well, with agencies and companies like DARPA and Raytheon already on track for the future.
Soon enough everyone will have availability to exoskeleton suits. They won’t be large or clunky as current models are, and they’ll be so efficient that you need not exhaust your muscles ever again. Current research is being successfully done by double amputee and engineer Hugh Herr at MIT, in which running exoskeleton suits are achieving just that.
Photo Credit: New Scientist