Hyundai to trial assistive exoskeletons in North American factories
Assembling cars can be a physically-demanding task, which is why Ford recently began equipping its factory workers with assistive exoskeletons. Hyundai is now getting in on the act, with plans to start testing two such devices in its North American factories by the end of the year.
The first of the two, the Hyundai Chairless Exoskeleton (H-CEX), was initially demonstrated in the Hyundai-KIA North American factory last August. Designed to protect the wearer's knee joints, it lets them stand upright as needed, but then provides support when they go into a sitting position – it serves the same purpose as the previously-covered Chairless Chair.
Attached via waist, thigh and knee belts, the H-CEX tips the scales at 1.6 kg (3.5 lb), supports users weighing up to 150 kg (331 lb), and allows for sitting angles of 85, 70 and 55 degrees.
The second device, the Hyundai Vest Exoskeleton (H-VEX), is worn on the upper body. It's designed to reduce pressure on the user's neck and back by adding 60 kg (132 lb) of strength when they use their arms for overhead tasks. Unfortunately no photos have been provided, and it's not clear if the H-VEX utilizes a spring system (like the MATE exoskeleton) or battery-powered motors.
This certainly isn't Hyundai's first foray into such technology. Last year, it unveiled the Hyundai Waist Exoskeleton (H-WEX), which supports the hips and upper body during repetitive manual labor or heavy lifting; the H-MEX (Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton), which helps paraplegics regain the ability to walk, sit, stand, turn and negotiate stairs; and the HUMA (Hyundai Universal Medical Assist), which is designed for those with limited muscle strength, delivering assistive torque to help in basic movement.
Down the road, the company also plans to introduce a Hotel Service Robot (perhaps not unlike the one that was recently announced by Alibaba), a Sales Service Robot for use in automobile dealerships, an Electric Vehicle Charge Manipulator that automatically charges electric vehicles parked in front of it, and a "robotic personal mobility" platform that switches between a nimble two-wheel configuration and a three-wheel setup for improved stability.