August 6, 2014
We talk a lot about robotic exoskeletons that give people almost supernatural lifting skills, but these tend to be confined to labs or science fiction. Not in South Korea, though. Daewoo has been testing suits that let shipyard workers carry objects as heavy as 66 pounds like they’re nothing. The key is support for task-specific frames that put virtually all the load on the machine, giving you full dexterity — whether it’s an engine part or a piece of the hull, you can easily put it into place.
The hardware isn’t ready to enter full service just yet. It doesn’t currently cope well with slippery floors or twisting movements, and its 3-hour battery life isn’t enough to cover someone’s entire shift. Daewoo says that the trial has been going well, however, and it ultimately hopes that the exoskeleton will shoulder up to 220 pounds. If everything pans out, shipbuilding could take considerably less time — and put much less strain on the people involved.