When typing "robots are going to take our jobs" in Google, the search engine yields 74.2 million results. If, on the other hand, you type "robots are going to empower our jobs", that number falls to 23.9 million searches.
This quick comparison offers a glimpse into how society perceives these technological advances. For years we have been hearing about this dystopian future: machines are going to eliminate jobs and are going to leave people without a way of supporting themselves. But the truth is that robots have been integrated within the workforce since the First Industrial Revolution, making our work easier, safer and more efficient.
That is the approach taken by the startup Skelex—solutions that do not aspire to replace humans in a working environment, but to empower them through technology. "We identified two aspects: on the one hand, robotics won’t change every single job; on the other hand, many work activities can cause injuries to workers,” explains Gaurav Genani, founder of Skelex. “These two things together demonstrate the need to search for a solution that makes people stronger where they can add value, and technology is here to boost it." Their proposal is an exoskeleton specifically designed to help operators safely perform complex tasks at different heights, allowing them to surpass their human potential.
Flexible and adaptable technology
Ok, let's pretend robots are going to replace humans. Is technology truly ready for that? It was about seven years ago when Genani asked himself the same question. "I was at university researching and, together with my professor and my colleagues, we realized that, although there is a lot of interest in automation and robotics, the reality is that machines cannot do all human jobs," he notes. With this in mind they identified a gap in employee safety at work.
To improve this, Skelex, based in Rotterdam (Netherlands), produces upper-body exoskeletons for industrial workers with the aim of "improving their effectiveness in overhead work and boosting long-term health and safety." Ultimately, their objective is to support industrial workers, so they are "safer, stronger and less prone to work-related injuries."
Skelex technology is inspired by the healthcare industry. "The original exoskeleton comes from medical fields where these tools are used to helping people who have lost the ability to move or need to treat injuries. Here the purpose is completely different, we work with a more mechanical and engineering approach," Genani explains. For him, "simplicity makes the device more intuitive to use."