New Scientist reports: [edited]
At a sprawling shipyard in South Korea, workers dressed in wearable robotics were hefting large hunks of metal, pipes and other objects as if they were nothing.
It was all part of a test last year by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, at their facility in Okpo-dong. The company, one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, wants to take production to the next level by outfitting staff with robot exoskeletons that give them superhuman strength.
The exoskeleton fits anyone between 160 and 185 centimetres tall. Workers do not feel the weight of its 28-kilogram frame of carbon, aluminium alloy and steel, as the suit supports itself and is engineered to follow the wearer's movements. With a 3-hour battery life, the exoskeleton allows users to walk at a normal pace and, in its prototype form, it can lift objects with a mass of up to 30 kilograms.
Chu says worker feedback from the trial has been mostly positive. Testers were pleased that the exoskeleton let them lift heavy objects repeatedly without strain, but everyone also wanted it to move faster and be able to cope with heavier loads. Chu is working on it. "Our current research target of the lifting capacity is about 100 kilograms," he says.