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Lowe’s Hardware Tests New Exoskeleton Technology

Lowes Exoskeleton

It’s not Iron Man, but Lowe’s exoskeleton is a pretty good start for a hardware store.

While exoskeletons may be found more in science-fiction than hardware stores, Lowe’s in Christiansburg, Virgina, is the exception. Lowe’s, the second biggest hardware store chain in the USA, has teamed up with Alan Asbeck, a Virginia Tech engineering professor to create a simple, lightweight exoskeleton to allow employees to lift greater weights without the risk of injury.

Lowe's exosuit

Asbeck has worked with Lowe’s Innovation Labs to create a lightweight frame, almost like a full-body backpack. The exosuit uses carbon-fiber rods to bend with worker’s movements, taking on a lot of any weight they carry. The focus is a light, simple design that improves what employees can handle without sacrificing comfort and, so far, it seems to be working. In an interview with The Verge, Kyle Nel, the head of Lowe’s Innovation Labs said that the exoskeleton allows workers to lift very heavy objects. He added, “It’s very smooth and it feels like the heavy thing is much less heavy.”

Bending and lifting become much easier as the exoskeleton takes the strain for the body.

Bending and lifting become much easier as the exoskeleton takes the strain for the body.

Four employees have been testing the exoskeletons since the pilot program started four weeks ago, and seem delighted so far. An interesting feature is how employee-satisfaction is being monitored. For hours at a time, workers wear a headset which checks brain activity, scanning for the high and low points of working with the exoskeleton, according to NBC. This is important since Nel sees the exoskeletons as a way to attract new workers. He added, “Who wouldn’t want to work in a place where you get to wear an exosuit?”.

Lowe's hopes to attract quality employees with the promise of its new hardware.

Lowe’s hopes to attract quality employees with the promise of its new hardware.

Lowe’s will continue to test the suits for two more months. Afterward, they’ll see about expanding to more employees and other locations. If Lowe’s proves the success of their exoskeletons, they might just become a common sight in warehouses and storefronts around the world.

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