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CES: Wearable robot turns workers into superheroes

It’s designed for workers who have to lift heavy weights, but the new exoskeleton from Sarcos can give anyone superhuman strength

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Meet the Sarcos Guardian XO. Or rather, wear it. The XO is a battery-powered, full-body exoskeleton designed to boost human performance and endurance while helping to prevent injury. It is in effect robotic suit designed for employees to wear, and to do the heavy lifting. By bearing the weight of the suit and the payload, the exoskeleton may enable an employee to lift up to 90kg repeatedly for up to eight hours at a time without strain or fatigue.

Delta Air Lines is partnering with Sarcos Robotics to explore the technology for its employees. It may be fit for a superhero, but a mobile and dexterous exoskeleton can boost employees’ physical capabilities and bolster their safety.

Sarcos, the world’s leader in exoskeleton development, has developed the Sarcos Guardian XO, a battery-powered, full-body exoskeleton designed to boost human performance and endurance while helping to prevent injury. This robotic suit, designed for employees to wear, does the heavy lifting. By bearing the weight of the suit and the payload, the exoskeleton may enable an employee to lift up to 200 pounds repeatedly for up to eight hours at a time without strain or fatigue.

“We owe it to the best airline employees on the planet to explore how emerging technology can make their jobs safer and easier,” said Gareth Joyce, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Airport Customer Service & Cargo. “That’s why we sought out a partnership with Sarcos.”

Delta is the first company whose frontline employees have worked directly with Sarcos to determine potential operational uses for the Guardian XO. In November, Delta people representing Airport Customer Service and Cargo visited the Sarcos headquarters to see it in action and explore how wearable robotics could potentially benefit them in their everyday work.

The Guardian XO is designed for use in industries where lifting and manipulation of heavy materials or awkward objects is required and isn’t easily handled by standard lift equipment. Potential uses at Delta could include handling freight at Delta Cargo warehouses, moving maintenance components at Delta TechOps or lifting heavy machinery and parts for ground support equipment.

Exploring how advanced tools and tech can better support employees is one way Delta aims to improve workplace safety while extending its industry lead in operational performance for customers. 

Delta plans to test the technology in a pilot location during the first quarter of 2020, giving employees the opportunity to experience the tech in a real-world setting and provide additional feedback on its functionality.

In addition to enabling superhuman strength for extended periods, the robotic suit may also level the playing field in terms of physical capacity. Roles that have historically been limited to those who meet specific strength requirements could potentially be performed by a more diverse talent pool, thanks to wearable robotics.

Ben Wolff, Sarcos CEO, said, “We look for companies who are clear leaders in tech adoption and have a history of innovating to meet the needs of their customers and their employees. Delta is the natural fit in the airline industry and has proven to be a great partner as we work to fine-tune this technology for commercial deployment.”

Delta first started working with Sarcos in 2018 as part of its “X-TAG”, or exoskeleton technical advisory group, representing the aviation sector. This council includes ten of the Fortune 100 across a variety of industries, including industrial manufacturing, oil and gas, utilities, logistics, construction, automotive, aviation and aerospace.

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