How the HeroWear Apex exosuit can help save your back
8:02

How the HeroWear Apex exosuit can help save your back

Tech Industry
[MUSIC] If you're over 20 years old chances are, you've had a sore back at least once or twice in your life. Well, there are a million Americans that literally rely on the health of their backs to put food on the table everyday. Well Inside this box is an exosuit built just for them. Remember that scene from Iron Man to when the suitcase turns into Tony Stark's latest suit of Iron Man armor? [MUSIC] Watch this Yeah, Andy doesn't sorry it doesn't actually work that way. Okay. [MUSIC] This is the hero where a pet It's a textile based non powered exosuit designed to take strain off your back during repetitive motions. So think activities like warehouse work where you're constantly moving boxes around, or even agricultural work where you might spend most of the day in a crouched position. Now, you've probably noticed this suit does not look quite as flashy as some of the other accessories. Seats that we've seen. Those suits are built to actually help you lift heavy things. They're full of electronics and motors, mostly designed to more or less make you stronger. Not surprisingly, they can cost 1000s of dollars. The purpose of the apex which starts at 12 $100 is not to make you stronger. It's specifically built to reduce strain on your back to prevent injury. He's here, where co-founder and inventor. Carl zoellick says, he came up with the idea for the Apex. When he started having his own back pain. I started thinking about hey, is it possible to develop a device that assists like these rigid exoskeletons? But can be much more practical, it can be more clothing. Like Carl started the project at Vanderbilt University, five years ago where he's an assistant professor of engineering. He and his group started by talking to workers who had tried those high end exoskeletons. What we kept hearing is, yes, they appreciated the assistance. But the devices were slowing them down. They were getting in the way. They were too bulky, too heavy. We went to our physics we started drawing models and figuring out the dynamics and we said, you know, mathematically. You don't need a rigid structure, you should be able to offload the back using these soft elements using these elastic elements. Carlina students developed a few early prototypes before reaching the design that would ultimately become the hero were apex. I tried on this device and I bent forward and I could feel that there was tension in the elastic bands along my back. And I told one of my students I said, Okay, now go back and detach them, Take them away. And while I was still bending, they removed the assistance and I immediately felt my back muscles seize up. And just that visceral Sound of not having the assistance. And it was really that moment that I said, Okay, this works. [BLANK_AUDIO] So let's take a closer look at the apex and how it works. You've got three main components. The first one, the main one, it's like a backpack. You've got this clutch on the back. The switch on the front which allows you to turn resistance on and off. We're gonna talk a little bit more about that later. [BLANK_AUDIO] These sleeves fit around your thighs. [BLANK_AUDIO] Then you've got these elastic bands, these connect to the clutch, the sleeves, and these are really what allow you to take all that pressure off your back. Now what they've sent me here, is called a fit kit. It includes bands, and sleeves, in different sizes, and lengths, and well, I found my exact fit, I would really only ever need, one set of sleeves, one set of bands. A business may order something like this, if they expect a lot of different people to be sharing suits. The idea is to make the suit as customizable, and comfortable as possible Let's set up. [MUSIC] [SOUND] Now this is really a key feature that you're aware is really proud of the ability to turn the suit on and off at will so easily makes it so important for workers. It really gives the workers the ability to keep the suit out of their way when they're not lifting and crouch. Okay, so now we're suited up, the suit is not engaged right now. So I've got a lot of freedom of movement. I can bend down I basically just feel like I'm wearing an empty backpack and a harness. I'm gonna go ahead and pick up this is a probably about 40 or 50 pounds and I can really feel all that pressure in my back when I lift this [MUSIC] So now I'm gonna engage the suit. I'm gonna press this down. Now those bands are engaged. I don't feel anything right away. But as soon as I bend down, I can really feel that a cyst in my back. So I'm gonna pick this up again. [MUSIC]. And while it doesn't make me stronger I could really feel that pressure off my back as I lifted this. Now obviously, this isn't a real world demonstration of the apex and what it can do to really see the full benefit, you'd need to put in a 468 hour workday of continuous movement from labor to really get that benefit. That's why we talked to a couple of guys who have been using the apex for a few months now. [MUSIC] Thomas Becker and Ryan McKay own Living Waters Brewing in Nashville Tennessee. When they're not serving up craft brews and coffees to thirsty customers, they're doing the dirty work behind the scenes. But we have a lot of hoses that are heavy. Be had to be connected. We have to pin down a lot connect those are kegs that had to be moved or 55 pounds. Grain bags that are moved around. Whenever we're loading grain into our hopper to actually be milled so we can start brewing. Mia we're we're shoveling basically 1000 pounds of grain in. So we're having to do that whole lifting and then as we mash out or whenever we take all the green out, we're having to basically take snow shovels and fill up trash cans and lift those trash cans to take that same 1000 pounds which is now even heavier because it's soaked in water. Would you say that by the end of the day by the end of a full workday, your your body's pretty tax? Yeah, yeah for sure. It's a pretty labor intensive so definitely some Epsom salts bath or something like that. After moving its office in next door to living waters last year, Hero were offered Ryan and Thomas a couple of Apex suits as a test case. Like we both noticed the free time we warm. Didn't know the day it wasn't a fad. It's like I'm not as achy as I usually am. Definitely very helpful whenever I need to get down and do some fittings or pick up something or especially during the maszyn and the mash out, all those processes, it's very good. Yeah, and if you get good at remembering to engage and disengage in certain points so it's like>>Yeah. Yeah, when you need it, it's right there. But if you just engage it and you can do anything pretty, normally. Ryan and Thomas told me, they do plan on eventually getting everyone in their operation fitted for the Apex suit. They say one of the things that's so attractive is that the suit is so, They don't have to buy a 12 $100 suit for every employee. They just need a few different sizes of bands and sleeves to fit everybody. It's also worth noting they don't have to buy different suits for men and for women. The Apex is designed to fit both.

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