US-based Sarcos Robotics has introduced an all-electric, battery-powered, full-body industrial exoskeleton that it said can allow a human operator to lift and manipulate up to 90kg for extended work sessions.
The company plans to start shipping the Guardian XO Max to customers in early 2020. It will be available through a fee-based ‘Robotics-as-a-Service’ model.
Sarcos has invested more than US$175m in R&D over a period of 17 years of development work. It said that initial testing of the next-generation Guardian XO Max has demonstrated an unprecedented reduction in power consumption, with the system requiring less than 400W of power while walking at human speed. This reduction represents a decrease of more than 90% in the power typically required for humanoid robots, it claimed, while enabling work sessions of up to eight hours on a single charge. In addition, the unit is designed to allow its battery modules to be ‘hot swapped’ in the field within seconds without loss of power to the unit.
“There are many misperceptions regarding the commercial readiness and viability of full-body industrial exoskeletons that are capable of substantially increasing human strength and endurance, including the amount of power required to operate these machines,” said Sarcos Robotics chairman and CEO Ben Wolff. “With our innovations in optimizing power utilization, Sarcos has been able to do what no other robotics company in the world has been able to do with powered exoskeletons or humanoid robots—power a human-scale robot doing meaningful work for up to eight hours on a single charge.”
Earlier this year, Sarcos formed its Exoskeleton Technical Advisory Board (X-TAG), which comprises executives from leading companies across a variety of industries such as industrial manufacturing, construction, oil & gas, logistics and utilities. The X-TAG is working to identify key performance and safety requirements necessary to ensure that the Guardian XO Max meets the needs of Sarcos’ customers.
The Guardian XO Max uses of Sarcos’ proprietary control system, called ‘Get-Out-of-the-Way’ control, which has been designed to simplify the operation and use of these suits. The system has been developed to eliminate any perception of latency between the movement of the human operator and the exoskeleton. It elies on a suite of sensors integrated into the exoskeleton, foregoing the need to affix sensors directly onto the human body. This control system enables the Guardian XO Max to respond to the human operator’s movements in milliseconds, claimed Sarcos, allowing the operator to control the robot in an intuitively way that leverages his or her instincts and reflexes. In addition, the exoskeleton design allows a worker to get in and out of the suit in less than one minute, said the company.
Sarcos has designed the Guardian XO Max to be full-body and fully-powered, meaning the entire weight of the suit, as well as its payload, is transferred through the suit’s structure to the ground. This results in offloading 100% percent of the weight the worker is bearing, said the company. Initial testing of the Guardian XO Max has demonstrated a strength amplification of 20 to 1, making 45kg of weight feel like about 2.2kg for the user.
“The potential for full-body, powered exoskeleton technology is immense—from giving our workers super-human strength without putting added strain on their bodies, to improving productivity and efficiency,” said IDC research director John Santagate. “Sarcos’ Guardian XO Max will be a game-changer for the industrial workforce, improving strength and capabilities, reducing the risk of injury on the job, and increasing the quality of life and longevity of workers.”
“We’ve already seen significant early interest in pre-orders across numerous industries, and we are working closely with the members of the X-TAG to ensure that the Guardian XO Max delivers on productivity needs, while keeping workers safe and out of harm’s way,” added Wolff.