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Robotics Hardware Technology

A Lowe's Hardware Store Is Trialling Exoskeletons To Give Workers a Helping Hand (theverge.com) 48

slew writes: Okay, this isn't Aliens 2, but hardware chain Lowe's is "outfitting employees with a simple exoskeleton to help them on the job," reports The Verge. "The company has partnered with Virginia Tech to develop the technology, which makes lifting and moving heavy objects easier. The non-motorized exoskeletons are worn like a harness, with carbon fiber rods acting as artificial tendons -- bending when the wearer squats, and springing back when they stand up. Lowe's has issued four of the custom-built suits to employees at a store in Christiansburg, Virginia. The equipment has been in use for over a month and the company says early feedback is extremely positive. '[Employees] wear it all day, it's very comfortable, and it makes their job easier,' says Kyle Nel, the director of Lowe's Innovation Labs, adding that Lowe's is working with scientists from Virginia Tech to conduct a proper survey of the technology's usefulness. 'It's early days, but we're doing some major studies,' he says."
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A Lowe's Hardware Store Is Trialling Exoskeletons To Give Workers a Helping Hand

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  • Are you really helping workers if, once given the exoskeleton, you expect them to lift much heavier items more often?
    • If it means keeping manual labor more effective than current or emerging automated technology while improving their overall health and well being, I'd say the answer is yes
      • by mikael ( 484 )

        And if they fall asleep or die from exhaustion, the endoskeleton will keep on working until the shift is over.

    • Generally this set up is beneficial to the worker as well as the company.

      First of all, they tend to get paid more money. Not a straight percent increase - if they do 30% more work, they tend to get 20% more money. Also, the job itself moves closer to skilled labor, among other things.

      Secondly, the conversion is rarely exactly equal, and is more often in the favor of the worker. If the machine eases human effort by 34%, they are often expect to work 30% more, but occasionally it goes the other way and the

      • They probably also get an insurance break due to additional protection against Alien Hive Queens.
      • by Ranbot ( 2648297 )

        Or the less dystopian scenario that workers do roughly the same amount of day-to-day work, but are less prone to acute and chronic injuries, which saves the company money on less workman's comp claims, fewer incidents to report to OSHA, lower health insurance rates, etc.

        Hospitals should be testing this out with nursing staff in hospitals, which have some of the highest rates of on the job lifting related injuries (from lifting/supporting patients). http://www.npr.org/2015/02/04/... [npr.org]

    • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @07:50PM (#54422937)

      Are you really helping workers if, once given the exoskeleton, you expect them to lift much heavier items more often?

      In this case, it looks to me that the benefit to the workers and company is that the device keeps the worker's back straight and enforces good lifting posture. Where I see how it can help some with the load, it's not going to really be that helpful. However, enforcing good posture will be effective in reducing back injuries it will be a huge benefit to both the company (and it's workers compensation insurance costs) and employees.

      • by Jzanu ( 668651 )
        There are cheaper devices called back braces that are already in use with proven effectiveness at exactly the same protective purpose. Look at the pictures in the article, it is the red cloth apron-like garment worn by all workers.
        • by Gryle ( 933382 )
          We don't really know if these things are superior to, equal to, or inferior to the existing back-braces. I imagine that's why Lowe's is only using it in a single store at first. You know, test bed, evaluation, all that good stuff.
        • There are cheaper devices called back braces that are already in use with proven effectiveness at exactly the same protective purpose. Look at the pictures in the article, it is the red cloth apron-like garment worn by all workers.

          And if you look at the pictures, this device IS a back brace too.... But braces don't ensure proper posture... I think this device does.

        • As mentioned in other's comments, you are describing the intent of the back brace: lock the back to prevent improper bending at the back instead promoting squatting at the knees. This device instead appears to nullify the problems of improper bending at the back, and possibly forces the person to ab-crunch in order to bend down and regain that force on the lift. Ab muscles are designed to do work, but back muscles are not really made to do much beyond maintain upright balance and reset the leg in preparatio
    • The items still need to be sized so they can be lifted by the customers, crammed in the minivan, and nailed together at home. The workers just have to handle them more often as a matter of course with restocking the shelves.
  • and to a party with video wins.
    • and to a party with video wins.

      It is so abundantly clear you didn't read the summary, much less TFA. It looks like a back brace.

  • At all costs, do not let United Airlines find out about this!

  • When they break they become hazardous. They rarely throw significant shrapnel but they're nasty to the touch. Sort of in between fiberglass... and glass. And having them exposed like that makes them vulnerable to abrasion, which is what actually leads to failure.

  • How about "trying," "experimenting with," "using," or any one of a dozen and a half phrases that are actual English?
    • by Jzanu ( 668651 )
      Trialling is standard English. See here [cambridge.org]. In fact, it is the most precise word to use in this instance. Looks like you need to seriously brush up on their English skills, or at least read more than random websites and comments from illiterate users.
  • If that is a Lowe's employee wouldn't' it have been more beneficial to pay for his gym pass and say a few weeks of personal trainer. I bet after 3 week and him loosing 20-30 LB they'd have a more fit and happy employee that now will work better even with the exo.

    • I bet after 3 week and him loosing 20-30 LB

      It's really not safe to lose 30 pounds in three weeks, and most people can't physically do that.

  • It's just called Aliens. COME ON EDITORS! :)

  • The last few times I've been to a Lowes, there weren't any workers to be seen at all, outside the registers. Who on earth are these exoskeletons designed for then?
  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnOIvn8hMS4

Seen on a button at an SF Convention: Veteran of the Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force. 1990-1951.

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