For decades, science fiction writers have dreamed of exoskeletons that give their wearer a boost in strength, speed, agility, or even superhuman powers. While today’s technology isn’t capable of creating a sleek Mark 85 Iron Man suit, there are some fascinating advancements being made in the field.
Sarcos Robotics is nearing completion on an exoskeleton 20 years in the making. Its Guardian XO is set to launch in January for military use and industry customers. The suit is capable of boosting the wearer’s strength by a factor of 20 and boasts an impressive 24 degrees of freedom.
Super Robotic Wearables
Consumers have been quick to jump on the wearables trend. From smart watches to smart clothing these innovative pieces of tech have skyrocketed in popularity. However, consumers aren’t the only market for wearables.
There are also plenty of industry applications. Microsoft’s Hololens 2 is a VR headset tailored exclusively for business use. Technically, Guardian XO is also a wearable. The 300-pound robot is designed to worn by everyday workers while giving them a boost on the job. Of course, the exoskeleton does most of the heavy lifting. To the wearer, the massive robotic setup only seems to weigh about 10 pounds.
Despite that, Guardian XO is capable of helping its wearer lift 200 pounds. To the human inside, that weight will feel like a meager 10 pounds.
The exoskeleton is run completely on batteries that can be swapped out to provide nearly eight hours of continuous operation. Meanwhile, it offers 24 degrees of freedom that allow the user to move naturally in almost every direction. Guardian XO follows the wearer’s natural movements and responds in real-time to provide a strength boost and reduce the risk of strain injuries at every angle.
The entire exoskeleton is built to enhance convenience without weighing the user down. It can be put on and taken off in less than a minute and minimal training is required since it integrates so fluidly with natural movement.
Paving the Way
Salt Lake City, Utah-based Sarcos Robotics has been developing innovative robots for industrial applications for more than 25 years. It utilizes a robots-as-a-service (RaaS) structure for its offerings—including the upcoming Guardian XO. Companies will be able to get one for about $100,000 per year. As part of the cost, Sarcos provides regular maintenance and updates for the exoskeleton.
With the technology obviously advancing to a useful, impressive level, it remains a mystery why exoskeletons haven’t caught on just yet. Perhaps it is because they are less precise or more expensive than a fully autonomous robot. Maybe industry leaders simply aren’t ready for the idea of super-powered humans running a factory.
Regardless, Sarcos is looking to change the narrative on exoskeletons. Though there have been lighter, more convenient applications from other researchers and companies, Guardian XO provides the powerful performance needed for sectors like automotive and aircraft production as well as construction and logistics.
The first Guardian XO units will begin shipping in January and will go to the U.S. military. A few unnamed industry customers are also on the list. Further units will ship in late 2020 for commercial buyers.