This Futuristic Exosuit Is Developed to Give Store Employees 'Superpowers'

This Futuristic Exosuit Is Developed to Give Store Employees 'Superpowers'

Futuristic visions and employee necessities drove Lowe's, a home-improvement and appliance company, to find a way to innovate their chain of stores' working conditions. Together with Virginia Tech, Lowe's designed and developed a new wearable robotic exosuit equipped with lift-assist technology to help retail employees with their physically demanding jobs.

This Futuristic Exosuit Is Developed to Give Store Employees 'Superpowers'

[Image Source: Virginia Tech]

Officers at the Lowe's Innovation Lab work with science-fiction writers to conceptualize a highly advanced technological future for the company. The writers use storytelling as inspiration for revolutionary and innovative initiatives. As a result, the collaboration has formulated a future where the use of advanced technology could give superpowers to employees and maximize their performance. In order to make this concept a reality, Lowe's Innovation Labs teamed up with Alan Asbeck, a robotics expert, and assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, to design an exosuit prototype.

The collaborative design between the industrial company and the institution resulted in a light-weight wearable exosuit that braces the user to enhance their proper lifting form and allow them to lift and move objects easier.

This Futuristic Exosuit Is Developed to Give Store Employees 'Superpowers'

[Image Source: Virginia Tech]

Designed to absorb a user's energy and deliver it back to them, the exosuit would enable employees to exert less force to perform specific movements. The carbon fiber in the suit's legs and back perform like a stretched bow geared to fire an arrow enabling the user to spring back up much easier from a crouching position. This technology converts heavy-lifting jobs, like carrying a bag of concrete or moving a five-gallon tub of paint, into a lighter and easier task.

Lowe's employee wearing an exosuit

[Image Source: Virginia Tech]

Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs, expressed the company's concern over their hard-working employees.

"Our employees ensure our stores are always ready for customers. As a way to support them, we found a unique opportunity to collaborate with Virginia Tech to develop one of the first retail applications for assistive robotic exosuits".

This Futuristic Exosuit Is Developed to Give Store Employees 'Superpowers'

[Image Source: Virginia Tech]

The readiness of the applicational field of this technology proves to be a great advantage for the team of researchers from Virginia Tech as the research leader, Alan Asbeck, has this to say.

"Over the past couple years, human assistive devices have become an area of interest. But, our technology is different, not only because of the suit’s soft, flexible elements, but because we’re putting the prototype in a real world environment for an extended period of time".

Store associate wearing an exosuit

[Image Source: Virginia Tech]

For now, the first four exosuits are being used by the stocking team at the Christiansburg store in Virginia. The research team will be working with Lowe's to assess the suit's physical impacts to the users. According to Asbeck, Virginia Tech is also looking to find additional applications of their technology.

"My objective for day one is to make it work for Lowe's. Beyond that, my primary concern is always getting research into the real world and being as useful to society as possible."

On the other hand, Lowe's will be conducting an employee engagement program to better understand the impact of the exosuit on the work experience.

Sources: Lowe's, Virginia Tech

SEE ALSO: New Assistive Soft Exosuit Makes Walking 23% Easier

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