Lots of companies are working on exoskeleton suits, but most are designed to slightly increase your lifting capacity, prevent injuries or help you empathize. Not Hyundai, though – the South Korean automaker is aiming for something more extreme with a “wearable robot” that it likens to an Iron Man suit. Workers piloting the device can lift objects weighing “hundreds of kilograms,” according to the company. Soldiers can also use it to pack up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds) over long distances.
The suit is a juiced up version of the H-LEX “wearable walking assistant” that Hyundai introduced last year. Unlike that lightweight version, which is worn like a suit, the fully mechanized exoskeleton “wears” you. However, Hyundai also has another version (below) that’s much more lightweight with just a mechanical spine and legs strapped to the user. That model is designed to help “paraplegics, the handicapped and the elderly,” according to the company.
Hyundai says the project is part of its “Next Mobility” system “that will lead to the free movement of people and things.” In other words, the car manufacturer is angling the suits as transportation, where other companies, like Panasonic and Daewoo, see them strictly them strictly as worker aids. Like Hyundai, DARPA is building an exosuit for soldiers for its “Warrior Web” program. As companies like Ekso Bionicshave shown, however, such robotic suits may have the highest potential as rehabilitation aids.