WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The technologies used to make exoskeletons are all improving fast, and that means huge gains in exoskeleton performance.
Back in the 1980’s exoskeletons featured in almost every sci-fi movie, like Aliens, but since then their development has been rather slow. Although that said in some cases, such as the development of several brain controlled exoskeletons that gave a quadriplegic man back his mobility and elsewhere helped other people with their hospital rehabs, what little development there has been has been impressive.
Needless to say exoskeletons that augment the physical capabilities of their human users have some very useful applications, and the one that’s gaining the most attention at the moment is assisting workers lifting heavy loads in industrial and military settings.
Last year, we got our first look at an ambitious take on these high-tech suits in the form of the Guardian XO from Sarcos Robotics, who just collected $40 million in funding to bring its full-bodied exoskeleton to market in 2021.
The company first revealed the Guardian XO last year, showing off what it described as “the world’s first battery-powered, full-body industrial exoskeleton,” adding that the untethered suit can operate for up to eight hours on a single charge and offer wearers a 20:1 strength amplification – which is impressive.
In short that ratio means that lifting a 40kg weight would feel like carrying a 2kg weight, or that carrying a 800kg weight would feel like carrying a 40kg weight – which is more like it! It’s no surprise then that this kind of capability drew the attention of Delta Airlines, which earlier this year teamed up with Sarcos Robotics to embark on pilots trials where, as you can see from the videos, its frontline workers would put the Guardian XO suit to the test.
As for what’s next, well, now that the company has secured extra funding to commercialise their suit, apparently they hope to use some of the cash to move into industries such as healthcare, disaster recovery, mining and security, but so far they’re silent on their plans to enter it into weight lifting competitions and use it to battle off evil aliens …