Iron Man-like exoskeletons studied to improve productivity, safety, and well-being

phys.org | 10/18/2018 | Staff
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Over the next decade, American manufacturers are facing an industrial skills gap with projections of 2 million manufacturing jobs going unfilled due to a lack of qualified and skilled applicants. A large portion of the current manufacturing workforce is nearing retirement age and younger generations often lack the interest to learn the technical skills associated with jobs in manufacturing. Furthermore, occupational injuries cost U.S. companies more than $13 billion annually, with overexertion injuries accounting for the majority of injuries.

With a $3 million award from the National Science Foundation, Virginia Tech researchers will perform fundamental research to develop whole-body powered exoskeletons for augmenting human performance in industrial use and to understand the dramatic impacts they may have on the socio-technological landscape of jobs. The exoskeleton is a wearable device that can augment the strength and endurance of the wearer by supporting body joints and providing assistive movements and joint torques.

Divya - Srinivasan - Assistant - Professor - Grado

Divya Srinivasan, assistant professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the College of Engineering, is leading the grant, "Whole-body Exoskeletons for Advanced Vocational Enhancement." Awarded by NSF's Future of Work at the Human Technology Frontier program, this project aims to develop and evaluate new controls and human-machine interfaces for powered exoskeletons, for increasing industrial worker productivity and lowering injury risks, while also preserving human skill for operating in dynamic, unstructured environments.

The research will be conducted in partnership with Sarcos Robotics, a company that has 20 years of experience developing powered exoskeletons with funding from DARPA and the Department of Defense.

Imagine - Jobs - Pain - Injuries - Srinivasan

"Imagine waking up and being capable of doing heavy physical jobs without pain or injuries," said Srinivasan. "Productivity would be boosted if people are healthier and safer. Workers currently in those positions would be able to do the job with less physical effort and in a safer way, develop...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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