Mechanical exoskeletons have been a sci-fi staple for decades. These devices attach a suit of robot limbs over the human body, dramatically increasing a person’s strength, and giving them superhuman abilities. Now, following massive advances in robotics and computing technology, these exoskeletons are stepping out of science fiction and into reality.
This exoskeleton isn’t being used to fight monsters from outer space, but rather being put to use building ships.
For the first time ever, a South Korean company is building mechanical exoskeletons for commercial use. However, unlike popular depictions such as those in Alien or the Halo franchise, this exoskeleton isn’t being used to fight monsters from outer space, but rather being put to use building ships. Shipbuilding giant Daewoo is testing exoskeleton suits which will protect and enhance workers during dangerous construction work.
The suits themselves fit over a regular human between 160 and 185 cm in height, and are attached via a series of overlapping joints and straps. Once on, the suit uses hydraulic and electrical power in order to give a worker the ability lift incredibly heavy loads. This system is so effective that it would theoretically allow a worker to lift a 20kg+ metal beam without him/her feeling any weight at all.
To achieve this, the exoskeleton is designed not just to assist, but also to work with the human as they move. By taking most of the weight off the worker, they are able to carry out much more precise placement of objects, something which is further aided by the fact that while wearing the suit, the worker can easily move at a normal walking pace, as if they weren’t wearing it at all.
In its most recent form, the suit can be operated for 3 hours with a single battery charge. However, it is currently only in a prototype stage at the moment, and its makers eventually want to build a model which can easily lift objects up to 100kg in weight, enabling workers to easily lift more than their own body weight.
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