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ExoSkeletons: Augmenting Human Frames to Overcome Disability and Enhance Strength

By Dick Weisinger

Exoskeleton frames are being developed to help the disabled and to augment normal human capabilities to make physical jobs less injury prone and workers more efficient.

The global market in exoskeleton is expected to reach $500 million in 2021 and grow to $3.3 billion by 2026, according to a study by MarketsAndMarkets.

Jason Cottrell, the chief executive of MyPlanet, told the BBC that “the implications are, in a word, enormous. Labor-intensive industries like manufacturing and agriculture have always depended on a workforce that must endure a certain level of physical exhaustion and risk. Devices that support a person’s frame while doing their job will fundamentally change how the industries run.”

Sandra Wachter, AI researcher at Oxford University, said that “in general I see this development as very positive for occupational health and safety. Machines are supposed to help us with dull, dangerous and dirty jobs. Robotics that protect your shoulders, your back and head, for example when you’re picking up or moving things, is crucial. This is exactly one of the exciting benefits of robotics.”

Matthew Carney, postdoc at the MIT Media Lab, said “to attempt to fit within the confines of the human form, and to match the bandwidth and power density of the human body, we must push the bounds of every discipline: computation, strength of materials, magnetic energy densities, sensors, biological interfaces, and so much more. At the most fundamental level, we are trying to eliminate disability. We want to develop technologies that allow there to be no difference between disabled people, and someone of a normative body type.”

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