These exoskeletons were made for walkin' – and lifting
What would a consumer electronics show be without powered exoskeletons? Panasonic subsidiary Atoun is presenting two new models at CES 2019 – one of them helps you to lift, while the other helps you walk.
Available since July 2018, the company's Model Y is appropriately enough shaped like an upside-down Y, and it is worn like a backpack that's strapped to both the chest and thighs. Utilizing two independently-controlled electric motors, it provides a maximum of 10 kilogram-force (22 lb-force) of support to the user's waist as they lift or carry heavy objects.
The device operates in three modes, which it switches between automatically. In Assist mode, it helps pull the user's body up as they straighten from bending forward to pick up an object. Its Walk mode subsequently turns the motors off when the user is carrying the item, minimizing resistance as they walk. Once they're putting the object down again, the exoskeleton goes into Brake mode, supporting the waist as the user leans forward with their payload.
Featuring a carbon fiber body, the Model Y weighs a claimed 4.5 kg (9.9 lb) including its battery – one charge of that battery should be good for about four hours of typical use. It's also IP55 waterproof, meaning that it can withstand water projected at it from a nozzle. You can see it in use, in the following video.
People who have to do a lot of walking might be more interested in Atoun's HIMICO lower-body exoskeleton.
Currently still in prototype form, it is claimed to provide a maximum power boost of 19 percent when walking uphill, 17.8 percent when climbing stairs, and 30.7 percent when traversing rough terrain. It utilizes an integrated microprocessor to adapt its performance to individual users, accounting for variables such as posture.
Little is available in the way of specs, although Atoun states that a smaller and lighter commercial model should enter a testing phase in a few months. The prototype is demonstrated below.