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Superhuman robotic exoskeletons are the stuff of legend. Tony Stark, the World Cup and even the U.S. Military have explored the possibilities that a post-humanist cage could grant its wearers. But comics are mere comics, the World Cup suit was used but once and the U.S. Military haven’t exactly progressed much in their research. Enter South Korea, where Daewoo Shipbuilding is experimenting with a robotic exoskeleton that will propel its labourers into superhuman levels of productivity.
Uncovered by New Scientist, the suit currently allows its wearer to lift up to 30kg of steel as if it were a bag of feathers. But this is the tech in its infancy. Final designs will enable the wearer to fling 100kg of metal across dockyards. Although the actual suit is comprised of a 28kg mesh of steel, aluminium and carbon fibre, the wearer — strapped in by their feet — doesn’t feel the weight. Thanks to a series of hydraulic and electric wizardry, stress is handled by the frame, not the wearer’s body.
The robot is not only designed for turning poles into toothpicks, but for handling heavy machinery accurately and consistently. As the human body tires, accuracy and strength is reduced. The exosuit ensures that this doesn’t happen, meaning that the wearer can concentrate on the finite movements, while the robot provides support.
Incredibly, the suit is fully rechargeable, and lasts three hours on a typical charge. Youthful technology comes with its own set of issues though. The exosuit is reportedly rubbish on slippery surfaces and it doesn’t fully enjoy lateral twisting motions like the human body can.
But overall, the tech is a step in the right direction. While shipbuilders are employing more automation, robots and augmented manufacturing, other sectors of industry could benefit from the suits, including construction and emergency recovery services.
Image: New Scientist/Daewoo