You’ve probably heard by now that robots are definitely coming for your job, but what if you could become part machine while doing your job? For that, you’d need an exoskeleton, like the one above. Developed by a company called Ekso and now being tested at Ford plants, the skeletons make workers bionic, allowing them to hold things like wrenches longer and without strain.
There are currently only four exoskeletons in use, according to Reuters, all paid for by the United Auto Workers. But the idea isn’t science fiction, and appeals to both the union and Ford for the same reason: the exoskeletons have the potential to reduce on-the-job injuries, as well make workers more efficient, since they’re less tired from doing the same repetitive tasks.
The lightweight vest supports workers while they perform overhead tasks, providing lift assistance of up to 15 pounds (6.8 kg) per arm through a mechanical actuator that uses torque to take the stress off a worker’s shoulders.
If you try one on, if feels like an empty backpack, but it enables you to hold a weight such as a heavy wrench straight out in front of you indefinitely and without strain.
Ekso began by developing exoskeletons for the military and medical fields, but branched out in manufacturing and construction in 2013.
The cost of the exoskeletons was not disclosed, but I’m assuming someone at Ford is carefully running the numbers, since buying an exoskeleton is probably a lot cheaper than losing productivity from an injured worker, or footing the bill for medical expenses. I bow to our bionic future.