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Hyundai wans to build Iron Man-style robotic exoskeletons for factory workers and disabled people

If you were heading up the R&D budget at Hyundai, a company best known as the world’s third largest automaker, what would you invest in? That’s right: the obvious answer is clearly a series of Iron Man-style robotic exoskeletons.

Shown off to a lucky few at CES, the company has built two robotic creations including the H-Mex and H-Wex exoskeletons, designed to give a robotic assist to those in need. H-Wex (that’s “Hyundai Waist Exoskeleton,” in case you were wondering!) grants wearers the ability to more easily lift objects by stabilizing their legs, hips and back for motions involving the waist.

In Las Vegas, H-Wex was demoed by showing how much easier it made the lifting of 40-pound boxes.

More: A robotic exoskeleton powered this disabled U.S. athlete to a prize in the ‘Robot Olympics’ 

However, the really exciting development is H-Mex (Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton), an exoskeleton geared toward helping people to walk. From a technical level, this involves not only some impressive hardware, but also the ability to calculate information about walking pace, stride length and more — and to do all of this in real-time across a range of surfaces.

To be fair,  there have been other, previous exoskeleton projects designed to help disabled people to walk — but Hyundai’s manufacturing chops (honed, of course, by its experience in manufacturing cars) give it a unique advantage. With high volume production, Hyundai might actually be able to produce exoskeletons that are more accessible and affordable than ever before.

According to the company, the goal is to get the necessary medical certification sorted out in 2018, after which Hyundai will start deploying tentative exploratory demo units in the couple of years after that to see how well it all works.

From our perspective, this is potentially some of the most exciting tech coming out of CES. Unfortunately, due to some unexpected technical hiccups, Hyundai couldn’t actually demonstrate the exosuit for us at the show. But if they can sort out whatever problem they were having (and we absolutely believe they can), this could be a real game-changer!