I just interviewed Eric Golden, CEO of Equipois Inc. Equipois, whose slogan is “Defy Gravity,” just introduced the x-Ar, an exoskeletal arm that attaches to a human arm providing it dynamic support throughout its natural range of motion.
A person puts his arm inside the x-Ar, which looks like a long mechanical arm attached to a chair or wall. The mechanism is entirely powered by springs (no motors, hydraulics or pneumatics). Inside the mechanical arm one has the ability to easily hold an arm up steady in one place for long periods of time, or hold and move objects up to 13 lb, as if there were zero gravity. The device was invented by Garret Brown, the man who invented the steady cam for shooting movies, a mechanism that accomplishes many functions similar to the x-Ar.
Golden says Equipois sees tons of applications for the x-Ar in manufacturing, which is the first field in which they are pushing the product. Tasks for which workers must manipulate and hold heavy objects steady for long periods take their toll on workers’ health over time, and cause fatigue that can degrade the quality of work. Conventional wisdom today may be that robots are the appropriate method for tiring tasks that require high precision. But some jobs are still just meant to be “a man’s job” (or “a woman’s job”) because they require sophisticated judgment, analysis and movement which unfortunately (or fortunately) machines don’t offer yet.
I haven’t used x-Ar yet, so I can’t personally vouch for whether or not it fulfills Equipois’ claims. But the company has put out some interesting demonstration videos which can help you better understand how it works.
Question: If the x-Ar works as well as Golden says, what applications do you see for it in your operation?