A new company called Astride Bionix just launched a relatively low-cost wearable chair. The device, which is like a pair of kickstands for the human body, enables the wearer to squat and take a comfortable seat anywhere.
Wearable tech usually conjures images of smart watches or biosensors, small devices that are primarily digital in nature. The wearable chair, which is gaining surprising global popularity in factories and now in consumer applications, is a decidedly more mechanical kind of wearable.
Competition in the space is growing. In 2015, Noonee, a Swiss startup, partnered with Audi to equip factory workers with its version of a wearable chair. The company's device is also in use by BMW workers and in other factories around the world.
Another company called Ofrees sells a $900 consumer wearable chair on Amazon. Robotics company Cyberdyne makes an assistive back brace that functions similarly to wearable chairs and has been trialed in airports in Japan.
All of these devices, whether passive or actuated, are technically assistive exoskeletons and part of a larger trend of human augmentation in manufacturing. Following successful trials by Ford of a robotic exoskeleton made my Ekso Bionics, one of the technology leaders in the field, the market for robots and other mechanical devices that take strain off workers seems primed for growth.
Like Ofrees, Astride Bionix is betting there's room in the consumer market, as well.
Worn like a pair of shorts, LEX is a harness with two mechanical arms hinged at the glutes. When the wearer takes a sitting position, gravity keeps the arms perpendicular to the ground, creating two legs. The wearer's own legs form the other points of stability.
It's a bit like the safety chair Homer Simpson came up with in The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace.
Astride is advertising its new device as a lifestyle or fashion product, complete with marketing materials featuring attractive people pulling up a sit in unlikely places. "Comfort anywhere, anytime," is the slogans, and the company is specifically targeting urban commuters who have to stay on their feet while getting to and from work.
It's a risky strategy bringing a new technology to an unproven market.
In order to demonstrate the kind of success that other unorthodox human augmentation gadgets like hoverboards and electric scooters have garnered, the company would be wise to procure some culturally relevant early adopters, and enough of them to properly break the social ice. Because let's face it, it'll require a certain amount of chutzpah to be the first one on your commute to wear this thing in public.
LEX is available for a discounted rate of $300 on Kickstarter.