The world of science fiction exoskeletons is here thanks to a new robotics company called Sarcos. The company partnered with Delta Air Lines to launch a public demonstration of the exoskeleton suite at CES 2020 and it lets people lift a massive weight with ease.
Sarcos has grown to become the world leader in exoskeleton development and their new suite, the Guardian XO is making waves in the industry. It's a battery-powered full-body exoskeleton that bears it's own weight and any weight that you lift. Based on testing, the suit allows a person to lift 200 lbs repeatedly for up to 8 hours at a time without any exertion or fatigue.
Delta Airlines is planning to implement the exoskeletons for their baggage handler workers as a pilot early this year, demonstrating it's real-world practicality.
The unique thing about this particular exoskeleton design is just how much (or little) it needs from the user to help move an object. In the demonstration at CES, users practically only had to move their fingers and the exoskeleton arm would lift a 50-pound suitcase over their heads.
The Guardian XO exoskeleton was designed for awkward lifting scenarios where employee physical exertion of any kind would be dangerous or hard. It's these types of scenarios that Delta Airlines encounters in its cargo warehouses and maintenance operations.
Historically, highly physical jobs have been relegated to larger and stronger people. If more and more companies adopt versatile exoskeletons, it means that there will no longer be physical barriers to entry for these roles. In essence, it would allow various highly-physical industries to maintain a more diverse talent pool.
Sarcos CEO said, “We look for companies who are clear leaders in tech adoption and have a history of innovating to meet the needs of their customers and their employees. Delta is the natural fit in the airline industry and has proven to be a great partner as we work to fine-tune this technology for commercial deployment.”
This self-supporting exoskeleton gives users super strength. pic.twitter.com/J3aJxcAtld— Interesting Engineering (@IntEngineering) January 7, 2020
The company is in the late phases of development with the exoskeleton as it now is looking to expand it's testing operations with companies around the world.
How the exoskeleton works
The exoskeleton has 24 degrees of freedom built in to give the user as much freedom as possible while wearing it. It allows users to lift a maximum of 90 kilograms (200 lbs.), but that weight only feels like 4.5 kilograms (10 lbs.).
This is accomplished through electrical actuators throughout the machine that runs off of an electric battery. Each suite has a runtime of 2 hours but thanks to detachable rechargeable batteries, workers can simply hot-swap the batteries out to work a full day.
As for pricing, the Guardian XO costs $100,000 per year to rent, which on the face of things, sounds absurd to the average consumer. However, the value proposition is there, a device that can supercharge average human workers, essentially giving them super-strength, will dramatically increase the working capacity of each individual employee.
You can sort of think of the Guardian XO as a robot that people control by being inside of it.
The machine is self-supporting and it can essentially balance on it's own. The entire suit weighs just 150 lbs, but it supports itself, so the user will feel nothing... other than maybe feeling like they're inside a robot.