Exoskeletons aren't just for shipyard workers or people with limited mobility. If Lowe's has its way, they'll help store staff fetch your giant bucket of paint. The home improvement retailer has partnered with Virginia Tech to test prototype passive exoskeletons that make it easier to haul heavy objects. Carbon fiber in the suits' back and legs serves as a "taut bow" that stores energy when you bend down -- that energy comes back the moment you stand back up, making it much easier to lift that heavy bag of concrete. The material's flexible nature should also help the suits feel relatively comfortable... a rather important consideration for warehouse workers who may need to wear it for an entire shift.
This isn't an extensive test, at least not right now. Only four suits are currently in testing at a store in Christiansburg, Virginia. It'll be months before Lowe's and VT have enough information to understand the longer-term effects of the exoskeleton. If it's deemed trustworthy, though, you could easily see it used across many Lowe's locations. The exoskeleton wouldn't just help staffers carry heavy items without help -- it could save the chain money in the long term by reducing injuries.