Hyundai is apparently branching out into a very different kind of transportation. The Korean carmaker is developing a robotic exoskeleton that increases the wearer’s strength significantly.
The company compares its creation to the Iron Man suit in a Korean blog post, but the Hyundai exoskeleton seems more like the Caterpillar P-5000 Powered Work Loader from Aliens than Tony Stark’s tech. It consists of a backpack with leg and arm attachments, including claw-like appendages that help the machine do heavy lifting. Hyundai claims the device allows its wearer to lift objects weighing “hundreds of kilograms.”
Hyundai actually has some previous experience with robot suits. Last year, it unveiled the H-LEX “wearable walking assistant.” This was a much lighter-duty apparatus meant to help senior citizens walk. The company also showed a scaled-down version of its new exoskeleton, with leg pieces only, designed for a similar purpose. The larger version could be used by factory workers, who already use standalone robots to do their jobs.
And that’s what Panasonic has in mind for its own exoskeletons. The Japanese electronics company is also interested in the technology because of its potential to make factory workers’ jobs easier, and to give the elderly and the disabled greater mobility. Over the past couple of years, Audi and Daewoo have also experimented with different forms of exoskeletons for factory workers, and in 2014 DARPA began funding development of a “soft exoskeleton” for soldiers.
Some carmakers, including Honda and Toyota, have taken things even further and created complete robots. You may have seen Honda’s Asimo attempting to walk up stairs or perform other simple tasks in one PR video or another. If those robots ever go rogue, it looks like we’ll be calling on Hyundai for the hardware to fight them with.