The Next Big Thing in Wearable Tech: Wearable Robots

Wearable tech opened up a whole new set of possibilities, from the Apple Watch to the Fitbit to backpacks to smart glasses. These devices are convenient as well as useful. But now we’re ready to enter into the next big wave of wearable tech: wearable robots, for the ultimate in usefulness and convenience.

LG has designed a wearable robot that is meant to make things easier in the workplace. The CLOi SuitBot is worn over your clothes, your pants in particular. LG is calling it a “human-centric wearable robot” and plans to introduce it soon in Berlin.

An exoskeleton, the SuitBot is worn on a user’s legs and is designed to help factory workers and others who do heavy lifting or who need greater strength and mobility in their legs to save their backs.

LG, working alongside Korean company SG Robotics, designed SuitBot to have “comfortable fit and naturally rotating joints.” This makes it easy to move around while you’re wearing it. It’s complete with foot coverings that are similar to sandals to make it easier for a user to put it on and take it off.

LG has the CLOi line of service robots and sees SuitBot and the others as a “smart working network,” meaning they will easily work along with each other in the workplace.

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It’s not known when it will be available on the market, but it probably won’t be something available to consumers as much as it will be available to factories.

While the SuitBot has the lower body covered, the Fusion will help with your upper body. It’s described as a “parasite” living on your back, which definitely makes it sound more creepy than helpful.

This robot sits on your back and has arms that reach around you to give you a helping hand, or rather two, as it gives the user two extra arms, as well as another set of eyes with binocular vision.

What makes the Fusion different from the SuitBot is that the person wearing it is not the person operating it. A separate person controls the Fusion remotely using virtual reality. It’s like that old schtick where one person’s hands are tied behind the back while someone else sits behind them, inserts their arms in front of the other person and does everyday tasks for them like eating or personal care, usually making a mess.

“Fusion is a wearable telepresence backpack system that acts as an extension to the wearer’s body — or surrogate — so a remote user can dive into and operate it,” said one of the researchers on the project, Yamen Saraiji.

“The backpack is equipped with two humanoid arms and a head. Using it, two people can share the body and physical actions. One remote person uses a virtual reality headset to see live visuals from the robot head’s binocular vision and can control the arms naturally using two handheld controllers.”

“Thus,” Saraiji added, “the user can feel ‘fused’ with the surrogate body, and both can share their actions. This system can enable a wide variety of applications and scenarios that can be explored using it.”

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Saraiji suggests that applications for this wearable robot would include teaching experiences, such as a physical therapist helping a patient.

“The most evident problem,” Saraiji said of the ways people are usually working as surrogates for another, “was the disjointed collaboration between remote people that we actively face in the current telepresence systems. With the proposed concept of body sharing, we not only solve the collaboration problem but also propose its potentials as a skill transfer and rehabilitation system.”

These devices aren’t available yet, and while the SuitBot sounds closer to availability than the Fusion, they still both seem a little far-fetched, yet are probably a realistic look at where we’re headed eventually with more personal robots.

Because the two are so similar yet different, it shows a wide range of possibilities, from legs to arms and head, as well as operating it individually or with the help of someone else.

How close do you think we are with regards to making wearable robots a reality? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credit: CNET.com and Kelo University

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