It's safe to say that robotics are the way of the future. People have been claiming that for years, true, but with advancements in 3D printing, power supplies and overall design, science fiction isn't all that far removed from reality. Over the past few years, technology has been advancing at an incredible rate - it might not be all that long before your car is driving itself, or it's possible to control an entire house with an iPhone.
One of these technologies is the exosuit: essentially, it works as a robotic frame around the body for the purpose of augmenting the users' abilities. Such suits have been in the works for years, but again, rapid advancement in technology is helping make this tech a reality. If you need any proof, just look at the European technology firm Fraunhofer IAO.
Recently, Fraunhofer IAO held its first public demonstration of its exoskeleton, the Robo-Mate. While it's clearly still in a prototype state, the benefits are immediately noticeable: the Robo-Mate can increase a user's strength up to 10 times, making manual labor and heavy lifting a breeze.
The Robo-Mate first entered development back in 2013, and since then, 12 different research facilities from seven different European nations have helped collaborate on what they call "the first exoskeleton for industry." Fraunhofer IAO claims that the Robo-Mate can make a 30-pound car seat feel like it's just 3 pounds, and it's all thanks to how the suit wraps around most of the users' body.
Basically, the Robo-Mate wouldn't work if it were focusing only on the users' arms - after all, having stronger arms doesn't really matter if your back can't handle the weight. That's why the Robo-Mate wraps around the arms, the thighs and the abdomen: not only does the expanded design make it safer for the user to wear, but it also helps redistribute the exosuit's weight.
There's still no word on when the Robo-Mate will be fully completed - in all likelihood, it's still a few years off. It's still rather large, its inner working are still relatively exposed - even Zurich University of Applied Sciences professor Wernher van der Venn admitted that the suit's look could use some work.
"The prototype is functional, but its appearance is still off-putting...You can see all the technology and the wires. It's probably a bit scary for people," he said.
If that's the necessary trade-off for gaining robotic super-strength, sign us up. For more details on the Robo-Mate and its applications, check out Fraunhofer IAO.