LG is all set to unveil a follow-up to its exoskeletal robotic suit, the LG CLOi SuitBot, at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, according to a recent announcement from the company. The new device will be specifically geared toward supporting the lumbar muscles of workers in industrial jobs, reducing the burden placed on the lower back and waist during heavy lifting. Worn around the waist with a portion extending to the lower back and another portion down to the wearer's legs, the bot works by first detecting when the waist is bent beyond a preset threshold. As the user's waist naturally adjusts to absorb the load being picked up, the bot applies a preset level of force, providing support against the strain. Beyond the slight change in focus for the second generation CLOi SuitBot, the new bot is also said to be easier to wear. The company indicates that it has also made changes to the fit of the exoskeleton but its size — consequently, the weight of the device — appear to be reduced as well.
Building a foundation for industrial robotic augmentations
LG first introduced CLOi SuitBot at IFA Berlin 2018, showcasing its vision for supporting workers to enable a safer work environment using wearable robots. That first-generation of the Korean tech giant's exoskeleton had a more direct focus on limb support for the lower body. LG says that demand for those types of solutions has increased rapidly across a wide variety of industries from industrial environments to home, medical, and commercial settings, leading the company to expand its portfolio. It also points out that, according to BIS Research, the market for wearable robotics was set at just over $89.67 million as early as 2016 but will grow exponentially over the next 6 years. By 2026, the market research firm expects wearable robotics to reach a market value of around $4.483 billion — at an increase of around 4900-percent, averaging growth of over 800-percent each year. LG plans to continue expanding its offerings in the wearable robotics space moving forward with the goal of taking and holding the top position in the category.
Keeping human workers alongside autonomous workers
As with the previous CLOi SuitBot, LG also maintains that its goal is to augment workers alongside other inventions in order to keep a balance between humans and robotics. The new SuitBot simply improves flexibility to keep their back and waist stable, lasting for around 4-hours and requiring approximately an hour to charge up.
It's also part of a larger ecosystem of robotics, including CLOi CleanBot, LawnBot, Home, GuideBot, PorterBot, ServeBot, CartBot, and others. Each is meant to work in tandem to improve efficiency and increase convenience in environments ranging from factories, airports, and hotels to grocery and other retail locations. LG's focus here doesn't seem to extend to any military applications — for now. So it doesn't seem at all likely that anything like the 'Exo Suits' from the Call of Duty franchise will be making its way into the news anytime soon. Although there is certainly at least some resemblance in the appearance of the AI-powered exoskeletal robot as shown in images of either generation of hardware.