If you’ve ever wanted to strap on a robotic exoskeleton to tussle with a xenomorph like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, you might want to consider working at Lowe’s. No, the home improvement chain isn’t getting into the business of defeating extraterrestrial terrors, but it is working on a wearable robotic suit to help workers lift and move heavy things.
Lowe’s Innovation Lab teamed up with Virginia Tech to design and develop a prototype that is light-wear and “reinforces proper lifting form,” which is not one of the purposes of the Caterpillar P-5000 Work Loader found aboard the USS Sulaco.
The Lowe’s suit is designed to absorb energy and deliver it back to the user, essentially allowing them to exert less force to get the job done.
“As they bend and stand, carbon fiber in the suit’s legs and back act like a taut bow ready to launch an arrow, helping them spring back up with greater ease,” Lowe’s explains. “As a result, commonly lifted objects, like a bag of concrete or a five-gallon bucket of paint, feels significantly lighter to the user.”
It’s no coincidence that the exosuit seems like an idea ripped out of a sci-fi movie, either: Lowe’s says its Innovation Lab works with “science fiction writers to envision the future, using storytelling as inspiration for innovative initiatives.”
The first four suits are in use at one store so far, while the team continues to asses the physical impact of the suit.
[h/t The Verge]