Lowe's employees get exo-suits for lifting heavy objects

A Lowe’s employee wears an exo-suit as part of a pilot program in Virginia. (Quartz)

Home improvement chain Lowe’s is giving its employees a leg up with the coolest work uniform we’ve ever seen.

As part of a pilot program in Christiansburg, Va., four exoskeleton suits have been issued to employees. While they won’t provide workers with Iron Man-esque powers, the robotic suits do help them lift heavy items, something that comes up pretty often in a hardware store.

CNN reports some employees spend as much as 90 per cent of their workday lifting and moving large objects.

A Lowe’s employee lifts a paint bucket while wearing an exo-suit as part of a pilot program in Virginia. (Quartz)

The exo-suits have been developed in conjunction with Virginia Tech’s Assistive Robotics Laboratory.

According to a press release, the suits are lightweight and reinforce proper lifting form to help employees safely maneuver objects. When an employee lifts something, the exo-skeleton absorbs some of the energy and delivers it back to the user, so they don’t need to use as much of their own force.

Carbon fibre in the suit’s legs and back also support movements and allow users to move from crouching to standing with a heavy object with greater ease.

Over the next three months, the Virginia Tech team will assess how the exo-suits work and what impact they have on the day-to-day employee experience. Workers have been using a headset for a few hours during their shifts while wearing the exo-suits, according to CNN, in order to track their satisfaction.

If the pilot project goes well, Lowe’s will evaluate whether to expand the program into other stores.

Exo-suits are gaining mainstream interest as major companies show off their innovations in the field.

Firms such as Toyota have started working on similar offerings,  and recent research shows that these suits can actually help prevent injury in the elderly.