Virginia Tech and Lowe's team up to help workers move heavy object easier with exo-suit

Four exo-suits currently in use at Christiansburg Lowe's

BLACKSBURG - Lifting heavy boxes just became a lot easier thanks to a partnership between Virginia Tech and Lowe's.

"Even though I've been walking around picking up these boxes many many times, it doesn't even feel like I've been doing body weight squats," said Tim Pote, a Ph.D student at Virginia Tech.

Tim Pote is one of several students at Virginia Tech who teamed up with Lowe's Innovation Labs to develop the exo-suit.  It's a light-weight, wearable lift-assist technology to help Lowe's workers move products more efficiently.  They've been working with workers in Christiansburg since last year.

"We watched lots of Lowes employees loading and unloading trucks, picking up things, putting them on the shelves, we watched what types of lifts they were doing," said Pote.

The exo-suit is made of different materials, but the most important part it this carbon fiber spring that offset most of the weight of a person's torso.

"Basically how the exo-suit works, when you lean forward, the exo-suit acts as a big spring and when you go to stand up again it pops you up again like a trampoline," said Alan Asbeck, assistant professor at Virginia Tech. 

Assistant Professor, Alan Asbeck, lead the team.  He says they made four exo-suits which the stocking team at Lowe's is currently using.  Both Asbeck and Pote say they are excited their work is helping people right now.  

"As a professor I don't want my work to just live and die in the lab.  I want the things I do to be useful, to be practical, to help people," said Asbeck .

"We can talk to employees and get their immediate reaction.... We're getting a lot of positive feedback and it's exciting to be apart of something like that," said Pote.

The Virginia Tech Team will monitor the Lowe's workers using the exo-suits for the next three months, and make adjustments if necessary.  The Virginia Tech team hope to make them lighter and more affordable so more people can have access to them.

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