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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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DStv Now adds free education to ‘lockdown channels’

In its response to the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa, DStv is offering 16 free channels on its streaming app

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Two new channels have been added to a free service being provided on DStv Now, the online version of DStv. 

In response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, DStv owner MultiChoice worked with local and international news channels in mid-March to add 24-hour news coverage to the DStv Now free service.

The company says the intent was to help all South Africans stay up to date with announcements and developments, and the results so far are encouraging. Usage of the service has increased 20% since the lockdown began, and peak usage is up 80% compared to pre-crisis peaks. 

 Now, in another step to help families through the lockdown period, MultiChoice has added additional educational content to the free service with the Mindset PoP channel. This channel features educational programming covering the entire General Education and Training (GET) phase, including Early Childhood Development (ECD), as well as a key focus on the Grade 4 – 9 curriculum. 

The channel aims to prepare children for when schools reopen. Mindset PoP will deliver live lessons daily, with six fresh hours every day. A website is available for parents to download worksheets and information sheets to work through with expert teachers. Lessons are based on the South African Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) and are also aligned to the Cambridge curriculum.

“We’re extremely grateful to all of the channel providers for being so willing to work with us to help all South Africans through this unprecedented lockdown period,” said Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of the Connected Video division of MultiChoice. 

“Thanks to their support we’re able to keep people informed, keep kids’ educations going, and keep people entertained.”

The full list of channels available to non-DStv customers on the DStv Now free service is:

100 – DStv

180 – People’s Weather

238 – SuperSport Play

313 – PBS Kids

317 – Mindset PoP

320 – Channel O

343 – TBN

400 – BBC World News

401 – CNN

402 – Sky News

403 – eNCA

404 – SABC News

405 – Newzroom Afrika

405 – AlJazeera

414 – Euronews Now

417 – africanews

To sign up for the DStv Now free service, go to http://now.dstv.com 

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FNB Connect cuts data price by 55%, offers 1GB free

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FNB Connect has reduce its data prices by up to 55%. It is also doubling customers’ data on Lifestyle plans without any price increase.

This weekend, FNB Connect will also give all its customers 1GB of free data during the national lockdown, with a validity period of 30 days. This lockdown data allocation is in addition to the Free Connect allocations that customers with qualifying transactional accounts receive monthly.

“This will enable our customers to save on telco spend, which is a regular feature in household budgets,” says Raj Makanjee, CEO of FNB Retail. “Access to affordable and free data goes a long way in assisting our customers navigate difficult times and is also aligned to our ethos of offering real help when it’s needed the most.”

Shadrack Palmer, FNB Connect product head, says: “In our efforts to provide our customers with more value for their money, we’ve reduced our mobile data prices and doubled the data bundles on most of our Lifestyle plans, to give our customers more reason to connect anywhere and anytime. This is needed now more than even, as South Africans are observing the 21-day national lockdown, with many strapped for cash during these challenging times.”

The new data prices and doubling of the Lifestyle plans are to be repriced as follows:

“Since the launch of our Free Connect offering in July 2019, we’ve tried to remain consistent to see how best we can incentivise our customers when they need it most,” says Palmer.  “As FNB Connect, we understand the pressures customers are facing financially and are committed to providing better value at every opportunity.”

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