Skip to main content

Lowe's is testing a bow-like exoskeleton that gives warehouse workers superhuman strength

lowes exoskeleton prototype news exosuit 3
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Engineers have been tinkering with exoskeletons to amplify our physical abilities for years. While there are certainly boundless military applications for this technology, there are also many commercial uses. Lowe’s, for example, just unveiled a prototype exoskeleton it hopes to aid employees on the job.

As part of the program, Lowe’s plans to equip its employees with a basic non-motorized exoskeleton to maximize productivity and efficiency. The project is a joint collaboration between Lowe’s research facility, the Innovation Labs, and Virginia Tech’s Assistive Robotics Laboratory.

The suit itself fits like a rock-climbing harnesses, with a series of flexible carbon-fiber trusses along the backside. These rods sit along the spine and behind the thighs. Bending as the person squats, the rods transfer the energy of basic movements more evenly. This stored kinetic energy essentially springs back as the individual stands upright. Lowe’s employees spend much of their day moving heavy items and the company hopes these exoskeletons will reduce the overall strain on muscles and joints.

“As they bend and stand, carbon fiber in the suit’s legs and back act like a taut bow ready to launch an arrow, helping them spring back up with greater ease,” Lowe’s explained in a press release.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Lowe’s has been testing the exoskeletons on four employees at store in Christiansburg, Virginia for more than a month. After these tests, the company will decide whether or not to expand this initiative to other stores. However, Lowe’s isn’t the only company looking to use exoskeletons to aid in workforce productivity.

General Motors recently partnered with NASA to create a motorized glove that makes it easier to grip and lift heavy objects. Panasonic and Hyundai are also working on their own exoskeletons designs. As for now, the Lowe’s exoskeleton prototype is rather elementary, and designed to test the baseline functionality of the suit — but future iterations will likely be more sophisticated.

“We didn’t want to over-engineer it, make it too fancy, or give it too many bells and whistles,” explained Nel. “We’re putting it in the rough and rumble world of a real store and will iterate on top of that… we’ll add a jetpack in 2018.”

The exoskeleton is still in the early stages of development at this point, but keep your fingers crossed and you might find one at your local hardware store sometime next year.

Dallon Adams
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Dallon Adams is a graduate of the University of Louisville and currently lives in Portland, OR. In his free time, Dallon…
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more