Exoskeleton for construction workers available in 2020

An electric exoskeleton that enables the wearer to lift 90kg for extended periods has been introduced by US firm Sarcos, and is due to be commercially available in 2020.

The Guardian XO Max (pictured) is a full-body exoskeleton that has been in development for 17 years, at an R&D cost of $175m (£136.5m).

The batteries that power the suit last for eight hours on a single charge and can be swapped in and out without losing power. The suit requires 400W of power while walking at human speed, and it takes about a minute for operators to get in and out of it.

Sarcos says the suit contains a “suite of sensors integrated into the exoskeleton, allowing the operator to intuitively control the robot in a way that leverages his or her instincts and reflexes, and minimises the need for human training”.

The Guardian XO Max has a strength amplification of 20 to 1, making 45kg feel like 2.3kg. The full weight of the suit and anything being carried is transferred through the suit’s structure to the ground.

Ben Wolff, Sarcos Robotics chairman, said: “There are many misperceptions regarding the commercial readiness and viability of full-body industrial exoskeletons that are capable of substantially increasing human strength and endurance, including the amount of power required to operate these machines.”

Sarcos will start shipping the Guardian XO Max in 2020.

In October, Willmott Dixon announced that it was trialling a “bionic vest” for workers, in what it claimed was an industry first.

The company is partnering with with robotics company Eksobionics, which has devised an upper body exoskeleton vest – called the Eksovest – that supports the arms during heavy lifting.

It is being used on the Cardiff West Community High School site. The company plans to demonstrate the Eksovest at other sites across the country before introducing it as standard, depending on how the trials perform.

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