Lowe's, Virginia Tech make lightweight exosuit for heavy lifting

Forget images of sci-fi battles between enhanced soldiers, aliens, and machines. Though it definitely looks like a prototype prop for the Edge of Tomorrow, this exosuit has a less violent and more benign mission. Born from a collaboration between Virginia Tech and home improvement company Lowe's Innovation Lab, the exosuit simply uses the principles of preservation of energy and a few flexible but sturdy materials to make lifting something like a bag of concrete less painful.

It's no battle suit but it does look as if some robotic alien attached itself to your backpack. Or one of those support braces that people with severe back problems wear. But while that tries to correct an already existing problem, this exosuit tries to prevent it from happening in the first place.

The simplicity of the machine matches the way it works. No fancy machinery or robotics here. It uses carbon fiber parts that bend and stretch like a bow when the wearer bends down to pick something up. This allows the exosuit to store energy, which is then used to help give the wearer additional strength to lift heavy objects. It's not going to turn them into supermen or superwomen, but it wil hopefully keep them from breaking their backs.

The exosuits are designed to not look intimidating, even if they still look odd, because it is something that has to be worn and seen everyday. Comfort of the wearers and public reception are just as important as their utility. There are currently only four such exosuits in existence, used by the Christiansburg store stocking team. Virginia Tech and Lowe's continue to observe and study the practical effects of these highly portable, back-saving suits of metal.