Shigeki Toyama and colleagues at the the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have built a robo-suit to aid farm workers in Japan, where two-thirds of farm workers are over 65 years of age. This thing reminds me of Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) exoskeleton Lockheed is making for the US military (video of that below). Toyama plans to start selling the suits in 2012 for about one million yen (~$11,000 US) each.
The team has developed a heavy-duty 30 kilogram (66 pound) model, for lifting big loads and pulling vegetables out of the ground, and a 23 kilogram version designed for lighter tasks such as picking grapes. The robo-suits can reduce the user’s physical effort by 62 percent on average, the inventors say. When bending knees the muscular activity is reduced by half, and the suit can also take most of the strain out of crouching. [Physorg]
They’re planning to add augmented reality goggles to provide useful information to the wearer, such as the ripeness of the grapes, how long you’ve been working, the suggested replies to different questions, and the probable locations of Sarah Conner.