Exoskeleton robots are a form of professional service robot intended to mimic and augment the motion of the human body. These robots are different than most other types of professional service robots in the sense that they are made to be worn by humans and are highly collaborative by nature.
The market for exoskeleton robots is young, and dozens of potential exoskeletons are in development for a wide range of uses. The military and industrial sectors are among the top users of exoskeletons at the moment, but a huge potential consumer market could one day drive massive growth in exoskeleton technology.
Military and Industrial Exoskeletons
Both the military and industrial sectors face the same main problem when it comes to deploying exoskeletons – they both require an exoskeleton that’s comfortable to wear for long hours but still highly effective and flexible. Historically, this has been a major technological challenge. However, recent robotic developments are changing this.
In the industrial sector, many exoskeletons focus on supporting one portion of the body that is used repeatedly. For example, exoskeleton gloves to support the gripping of tools ease the physical burden for laborers who must assemble or lift objects every day. In the military, exoskeletons focus primarily around supporting the lower body over long periods of time, but there are other models too. One fascinating exoskeleton in development is meant to collect energy generated by a soldier’s motions to then charge all of their devices for up to 72 hours.
While exoskeletons are still early in development, there are major opportunities in both the military and industrial sectors for companies that can create comfortable effective exoskeletons.
Huge Potential in the Commercial Market
Very few exoskeletons are currently deployed in the commercial market. However, the potential for future exoskeleton technology is huge. For basic applications such as hiking assistance or joint support during sports, exoskeletons could be a useful and enjoyable product at the right price in the near-term.
In the long-term, exoskeletons could be used for an even wider range of advanced applications. Education, for example, could benefit from exoskeletons – in one example, an exoskeleton glove could teach someone to play the piano. More radical ideas for exoskeletons include their use as powered or motorized forms of general transportation as an alternative to existing forms of public transportation.
While the consumer market has yet to truly take form, there are many different ways that exoskeletons could have huge commercial potential. In the military and industrial sectors, that potential already exists and several designs are being tested.
To learn more about exoskeletons, visit our educational resources on exoskeletons and professional service robots.