Panasonic’s Japanese unit ActiveLink has finally decided to expand the target market of their exoskeleton suits. What once was only used for medical and military activities will soon be available for the common laborer with the launch of their cheaper and easier-to-wear exoskeleton suits.
While the robotic suits have been developed by the firm since 2003, it was only recently that the company had decided to come up with the “Powerloader” suit, which is relatively cheaper than their first releases. This suit ranges from $5,000 to $7,000, and could handle simple tasks such as lift heavy items and assist in farming. On the other hand, the Cyberdyne’s Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) is aimed at helping employees in nursing homes carry heavy loads and also to support people going trough physiotherapy for their arms and legs. For much heavier loads of up to 90 kilograms, your best bet is the Lockheed Martin’s Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC). Powered by hydraulics, this suit is often used in military.
The new design of ActiveLink’s Powerloader, called the Powerloader Light PLL-01, makes it much easier for the wearer of the suit to manage it. Weighing 40 kilograms, the PLL-01 could carry a load of up to 30 kg, a big step down from its military-use predecessor, which could lift up to 100 kg. Company president Hiromichi Fujimoto said, “For commercialization, we need to make something that’s more compact and lighter while further reducing the risk of falling over.”
Because the robots are not easy to sell, the company has decided to highlight the ease with which one can wear the exoskeleton suit and still move as one of its major selling points. The company is also looking at developing new designs, which have lesser functionality and features so that weight will not be a problem, as well as bringing down the price. Fujimoto said that the company may also develop suits that can be worn on the arms or any body parts like a device, which would make them more handy and user-friendly.
[via Wall Street Journal]
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