Using robotics and artificial intelligence to bring sustainable improvements to the lives of millions
German Bionic officially presented to the European Parliament
The General Directorate for Innovation and Technological Support (ITEC) of the European Parliament is a central institution for the political assessment and evaluation of key technologies. This makes the annual ITEC Innovation Week a pivotal event in the calendar of all EU parliamentarians involved in technology issues and their policy support.
Utopia becomes reality
Science fiction fans have been familiar with exoskeletons since 1986 – the year James Cameron’s blockbuster Aliens hit cinemas. The final battle, in which Ripley – donned in a body-worn robot – sends the alien queen hurtling into space through the automatic airlock, remains unforgettable. Some thirty years later, such body-augmentation systems have a become reality – albeit with a different focus – and are known under the terms exoskeletons, power suits, or simply wearable robotics.
Exoskeletons, or external skeletons, are being primarily developed for three main application scenarios: In medicine, they are already commercially successful in rehabilitation and to assist walking. In disaster relief, they are getting ready to make first responders more effective when needing to transport heavy loads over long distances and uneven terrain or for rescuing injured people. Experts, however, currently identify the greatest potential for their use to be in areas where human labor cannot be meaningfully replaced by full automation or conventional robotic systems. This include work processes in logistics and intralogistics, industrial production, but also in other physically demanding work such as in construction or nursing.
“R&D is our DNA. When many years of interdisciplinary groundbreaking research materialize into a product that users and industry professionals alike describe as being a “gamechanger”, it’s no surprise that my team and I are simply itching to fire up the next stages of development.”
The perfect augmentation of the human body can only be achieved on a valid basis of data.
To spark the next phase of the bionic revolution, exoskeletons must be fully connected to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the Smart Factory. By collecting and evaluating sensory or motion data, not only can the actual support being provided to the exoskeleton user be quantified – which is a key factor for the commercial application of the systems. Moreover, the data and the associated interfaces are an essential tool for enabling effective networking between research institutions and manufacturers, with the aim of conducting interdisciplinary primary research. This interconnection is also laying the data foundation for machine learning and more advanced AI-based applications and capabilities. As a result, connected exoskeletons will continue to become more intelligent and adapt to the needs of their users – and not, as with purely mechanical tools or passive exoskeletons, the human to the machine.
"Our smart power suit augments the human body to effectively support us in physically demanding work, such as that performed in every day in logistics, production and healthcare environments as well as any other jobs where manual handling is involved. The pandemic, in particular, highlighted how important these types of "essential workers" are for our economy and for social cohesion. For us as a company, it is therefore of primary interest and concern to successively improve the working conditions and subsequently the health and safety of these people.“
Sustainable and responsible corporate governance through technological innovation
Sustainable business practices and a focus on ESG issues are playing an increasingly important role in the financial and strategic planning of institutional and private investors. Responsible corporate governance should, however, start with the employees. Putting the German Bionic system solution to use makes a clear statement about the value your company places on its staff. Empower your employees to be their best – both in and out of the workplace. Not only does this increase your company’s ESG score, it also increases its attractiveness as an employer in the context of an ageing workforce and an increasingly competitive labor market.
“The well-being of people is always at the core of our product development efforts. This is perfectly reflected in our AI application, the SMART SAFETY COMPANION, our intelligent, real-time early warning system for ergonomics. It effectively prevents poor postures and incorrect lifting techniques, warns against fatigue, and thus prevents errors and injuries caused by excessive strain.”