The light-weight exosuit reinforces proper lifting form and is intended to make lifting heavy objects easier. (PRNewsfoto/Lowe’s Companies, Inc.)

Lowe’s employees to wear futuristic, robotic suits for work uniforms

This definitely isn’t your typical work uniform.

Lowe’s and Virginia Tech have joined forces to develop a wearable robotic suit for Lowe’s store employees. The futuristic suit is fitted with lift-assist technology, making it easier to lift heavy objects on the job.

The suit is currently in pilot at Lowe’s in Christiansburg, Va. The suit is designed to help employees lift and move products through the store more efficiently, and will aid against muscle fatigue caused by repetitive motion.

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“Our employees ensure our stores are always ready for customers,” said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the company’s disruptive technology hub. “As a way to support them, we found a unique opportunity to collaborate with Virginia Tech to develop one of the first retail applications for assistive robotic exosuits.”

The exosuits, which went through months of prototype testing, are meant to be so futuristic that the Lowe’s Innovation Lab worked with science fiction writers for inspiration. The lab envisioned a future where technology could provide special superpowers to employees and maximize performance, according to a company statement.

The retail chain worked with Virginia Tech students and professors to bring the narrative to life.

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“Over the past couple years, human assistive devices have become an area of interest,” said Alan Asbeck, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech. “But, our technology is different, not only because of the suit’s soft, flexible elements, but because we’re putting the prototype in a real world environment for an extended period of time.”

The effectiveness of the suit will be tested in the coming months at the Virginia store.

Lowe’s has more than 2,365 home improvement and hardware stores and employs more than 290,000 people. Lowe’s has stores in Dayton, West Carrollton, Trotwood, Centerville, Huber Heights, Fairborn, Xenia, South Lebanon, Cincinnati, Mason, Troy, Springfield and Hamilton.

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