Human strength-multiplying robot gets wearable controller

It's motion control meets Mecha (but for real).

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Sarcos Robotics

The company behind some of the coolest strength-multiplying robots in the world has a new trick up its sleeve: A wearable controller garment that enables teleoperated robots to do a user's bidding.

Among other robotic systems designed for use in construction, heavy industries, and defense, Sarcos Robotics makes what might best be conceived as robot avatars, powered robots that mimic the motions of human operators with far greater force and endurance than humans could muster. One of these robots, the Guardian XO, is billed as the world's first full-body, battery-powered wearable industrial robot designed for industrial uses. Wearing the suit, users are able to lift up to 200 pounds for extended work sessions, including hoisting tools and materials in industries like aviation, manufacturing, warehousing, logistics, oil & gas, construction, and others. 

Sarcos is calling its SenSuit controller garment to enable a user with the same motion control capabilities for a robot called the Guardian XT, which looks like a robot version of a human torso and arms. The highly dexterous mobile robotic system can accomplish precision tasks and perform work in unstructured environments, spaces that could soon include construction and mining.

"We are proud of the significant strides we have made in enhancing teleoperation capabilities for the Guardian XT robot as we march towards commercialization next year," said Ben Wolff, chairman and CEO, Sarcos Robotics. "Our new control system is expected to enable our customers to seamlessly and efficiently perform difficult tasks and to operate in dangerous environments -- including at height -- while keeping the operator safe and out of harm's way. We believe the integration of these advanced technologies, including our proprietary SenSuit controller, will set the gold standard for the teleoperation of robotic systems in the coming years."

The SenSuit controller is an inertial measurement unit (IMU)-based motion tracker that communicates with the robot and leverages Sarcos' proprietary force feedback technologies. As in the embedded demonstration video, the system can be integrated with AR/VR to provide remote situational awareness for the operator. 

This is all good news for industries that are prone to some of the highest workplace injury rates in the world. Overexertion and falls are among the most common workplace injuries, ranking third and fourth respectively according to the 2019 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. The increasing versatility of strength-multiplying robots suggests a future where man-machine hybrids work more efficiently and safer.

The Guardian XT is expected to be commercially available by the end of 2022 and will integrate Sarcos' SenSuit wearable controller.