“Lowe’s is committed to exploring opportunities that improve the workplace experience. As a way to support our employees, we found a unique opportunity to collaborate with Virginia Tech to develop one of the first retail applications for robotic exosuits,” Lowe’s Innovation Labs Executive Director Kyle Nel told VTNews.VT.edu.
The exoskeletons are worn like rock climbing harnesses and backpacks, reported CNN.com. Each lightweight suit is equipped with carbon-fiber shafts that run down the employees’ backs and thighs. The carbon-fiber shafts act similarly to tendons: flexing and storing potential energy when the employee bends down, then straightening and releasing the built-up energy when the employee stands back up.
Asbeck, a specialist in the construction of wearable technology, explained that: “Our technology is different in that it includes soft and flexible elements, and our approach is unique in that we are putting our prototypes in a real-world environment for an extended period of time.”
In addition to the suits, the employees were also given headsets to wear during a few hours of their shifts. These headsets are being used in place of directly asking employees how they feel while in the suits. Each headset detects brain activity in order to determine whether or not the employees are enjoying the use of their exoskeletons.
“We didn’t want to over-engineer it, make it too fancy, or give it too many bells and whistles,” stated Nel.