If you've seen Avatar or Aliens, then you've seen futuristic versions of exoskeletons – mechanical systems that human users wear over their bodies, to augment their own physical abilities. While exoskeletons are already available and in use today, they're sometimes a bit more machine than what is needed. After all, why put on an expensive full- or half-body contraption, when you're performing a task that mostly just requires the use of one arm? That's where the x-Ar exoskeletal arm support comes in. Users wear it on their dominant arm, and it moves with them, providing support as they do things such as holding tools out in front of themselves.

The x-Ar is the latest product from Equipois, which has already been selling a little something called the zeroG. Also reminiscent of Aliens technology, it's a Steadicam-inspired device that can either be worn via a back brace-like arrangement, or mounted on a work stand, wall track, or other apparatus beside the worker. Just like a Steadicam allows a movie camera to seemingly float weightlessly beside its operator, using nothing but hinges, springs and counterweights, the zeroG (pictured below) does the same thing for whatever tool is mounted on it.

Unlike the zeroG, which doesn't connect with the user's arms at all, the x-Ar attaches to the wrist of their dominant arm via a cuff – they still hold whatever tool they're using in their hand, and it will fall to the floor if they let go of it. Even for people whose jobs don't involve heavy tools, the x-Ar could still be of great assistance to people who are simply required to extend their arm for extended periods.

Equipois CEO Eric Golden has been quoted as saying that besides reducing workplace injuries, the device could also find use in assisting paralyzed people in moving their arms, and that it could eventually even be used with a brain-machine interface.

The x-Ar is expected to go on sale in April, for between US$2,000 and $3,000.

For a lower-tech gizmo that offers some of the same features, also check out the Portable Support Tool Balancer.

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