Recently we learned that Ford was incorporating the HoloLens into some of its production procedures, but the car-maker is also considering some other innovations by testing an exoskeleton that some of its workers can use on the production line.
The exoskeleton is called the EksoVest and it is developed by Ekso Bionics in partnership with Ford. When people hear exoskeleton, they might be inclined to think of a suit of power armor from Fallout or some other kind of cyborg-like monstrosity. The reality is a lot less exciting, but also a lot simpler and a lot more obvious in how it can help take up some of the strain endured by workers.
The EksoVest is sort of like a backpack with arm supports that the worker can strap onto themselves in probably around a minute. It has pads that rest on the underside of each upper arm of whoever is wearing it. The EksoVest is not powered in any way but has a spring mechanism which once activated can provide lift assistance of between five and fifteen pounds of weight per arm when someone is doing an overhead task.
This will reduce some of the strain that workers might experience when they operate a heavy power tool, like a drill, for long periods of time. Ekso Bionics says the system is best for tools that weigh up to eight pounds but will also provide arm support for tasks that have no tools, but still require one's arms to be raised for extended periods of time, for example, when a worker is snapping a fuel line into place by hand.
Some of the workers on an assembly line at Ford might raise their arms 4,600 times a day, a million times a year, so even a marginal lift assistance like this might be able to reduce the overall fatigue and subsequent risk of injury over the year.