The Verge: Lowe's launches assistive exosuits

The Verge reports: 

Hardware chain Lowe’s is outfitting employees with a simple exoskeleton to help them on the job. The company has partnered with Virginia Tech to develop the technology, which makes lifting and moving heavy objects easier. The non-motorized exoskeletons are worn like a harness, with carbon fiber rods acting as artificial tendons — bending when the wearer squats, and springing back when they stand up.

"It feels very natural,” Kyle Nel, the director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, tells The Verge. “When the person is walking and bends down to pick something up, the rods collect potential energy. And when they stand back up it puts that energy back into their legs and back. It’s very smooth, and it feels like this heavy thing [they’re lifting] is much less heavy.”

Lowe’s has issued four of the custom-built suits to employees at a store in Christiansburg, Virginia. The equipment has been in use for over a month and the company says early feedback is extremely positive. “[Employees] wear it all day, it’s very comfortable, and it makes their job easier,” says Nel, adding that Lowe’s is working with scientists from Virginia Tech to conduct a proper survey of the technology’s usefulness. “It’s early days, but we’re doing some major studies,” he says.

“We didn’t want to over-engineer it, make it too fancy, or give it too many bells and whistles,” says Nel of the exoskeleton. “We’re putting it in the rough and rumble world of a real store and will iterate on top of that.”

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