In the not too distant future, the job of fork lift driver may become as sought after and glamorous as train driver in the age of steam or rocket scientist during the 60’s & 70’s. This sudden change will be because the humble forklift is about to be replaced by the exoskeleton.
Japanese giant Panasonic recently announced that they will start selling an exoskeleton which will allow it’s operator to lift 15 kilos over their current unassisted weight limit, with far less strain on the body. They are also working on a much larger suit with a carrying capacity of 100 kilos.
Exoskeletons and other powered suits have been a staple of science fiction and comics for years now, but just as in the somewhat related field of robotics, reality is finally starting to catch up, with the US military trialing various suits and their applications alongside various medical organisations using them to improve rehabilitation after injury or even to allow the seriously disabled to walk again. Panasonic spokesman Mio Yamanaka says “We expect that an exoskeleton, or power-assist suit, will be widely used in people’s lives in 15 years. We expect that they will be used for tasks that require physical strength, such as moving things and making deliveries, public works, construction, agriculture, and forestry.”
Certainly there are any number of manual jobs that could be enhanced and improved by exoskeletons, and as well as taking the sheer toil out of things the fact you are inside a metal frame might also act to protect you from being struck or even crushed by heavy objects. The suit could even be programmed with safety overrides to prevent you doing something stupid, like working close to the edge of a building without a safety line. Another thing to look forward to is that, with our population aging and getting less and less fit, we might all still be able to get around without the effort of actually walking anywhere, just so long as the batteries last.
Source: MIT Technology Review