Exoskeleton Suits: 22 Real-Life Examples

These wearable devices designed to enhance, increase and restore human performance are expanding beyond rehabilitative purposes and making their way into industrial use.

Written by Dawn Kawamoto
Exoskeleton Suits: 22 Real-Life Examples
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
UPDATED BY
Matthew Urwin | Apr 19, 2024

Iron Man might be part of the fictional Marvel Universe, but the suit? Yep, that tech really exists. 

Exoskeleton suits are wearable devices that work with the user to enhance their strength and performance to complete tasks or to rehabilitate their body. 

The military first explored exoskeleton technology when General Electric developed the Hardiman exoskeleton in 1965. Since then, companies have produced exoskeletons for sectors like logistics, manufacturing, construction and agriculture, increasing humans’ abilities to squat, bend, walk and lift heavy objects. Exoskeletons’ capacity to augment human movements has also made them a key part of physical rehabilitation in healthcare settings.

Top 10 Manufacturers of Exoskeleton Suits

  1. Ekso Bionics
  2. Cyberdyne
  3. Lockheed Martin
  4. Lifeward
  5. Ottobock
  6. Rex Bionics
  7. Palladyne AI 
  8. Hyundai Motor Group
  9. German Bionic
  10. Wandercraft

And in the coming years, exoskeletons may yield more than super body strength. The industry is expected to soar from $68 million in 2014 to a whopping $7.3 billion by 2030, according to Lian Jye Su, research director at global technology intelligence firm ABI Research.

The future for exoskeletons is looking mighty powerful, and the following examples offer a glimpse into the expanding horizons of exoskeletons.

 

Examples of Exoskeleton Suits

The exosapien exoskeleton walking across a lake with ease.
Exosapien’s Prosthesis was developed mechanical racing in mind and stands over 14 feet tall. | Image: Exosapien

Exosapien Technologies: Prosthesis

Prosthesis stands more than 14 feet tall and is solely controlled by a human operator, electro-hydraulics and direct touch feedback, according to Prosthesis’ creator Jonathan Tippett on YouTube. Based on a user’s hand, arm, leg and feet movements, Prosthesis can run upwards of 20 miles per hour, powered by a lithium-ion battery. Tippett said he developed Prosthesis to launch a new sport of mechanical racing. 

 

A solider wearing the Onyx exoskeleton on their lower limbs to help carry a heavy load.
The Onyx Exoskeleton uses AI to help it move according to the wearers’ movements. | Image: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin: Onyx Exoskeleton

Military and first responders are the target market for Onyx Exoskeleton. Imagine charging up a hill carrying rounds of ammunition or climbing stairs with a hefty firehose. Pretty heavy. The Onyx Exoskeleton, which uses AI, gathers movement data from users’ feet, knee and hip sensors and forwards it to a control module stationed on the waist which instructs the exoskeleton to move accordingly.

 

A person wearing the paxeo thumb exoskeleton around their thumb as they press their thumb against a machine like surface.
The Paxeo Thumb exoskeleton cuts the strain on the thumb and hand by 70 percent and protects the tip of the thumb. | Image: Ottobock

Ottobock: Paexo Thumb

Even the lowly thumb needs a break if it’s put to daily rigorous tasks like frequently pushing buttons, using clippers or plugging in items on a spreadsheet. That’s where the world’s smallest exoskeleton comes in to protect the tip of the thumb and relieve strain on the joints in the hand. The Paexo Thumb is designed to cut 70 percent of the strain on the thumb joint by redirecting the pressure across your entire hand. Users also have more size options, thanks to a slim version of the product.

 

The Skeletonics exoskeleton towering over its wearer's shoulders.
The Skelectonic exoskeleton supersizes its user to 10 feet tall and is fully powered by kinetic energy. | Image: Skeletonics

Skeletonics: Skeletonics Arrive

Want to be bigger than life? Skeletronics will supersize you to nearly 10 feet tall and enable you to walk through a crowd of people like a proverbial giant. With a fusion of mechanics and electronics, the fingers are able to move with precision, as well as the legs. Kinetic energy moves Skeletonics instead of a battery or electricity. 

 

Two people walking while wearing the WIM exoskeleton
WiRobotics’ WIM gives users a boost during each stride, making walking and exercise more seamless. | Image: WiRobotics

WiRobotics: WiRobotics WIM 

Walking and exercising become much easier with WiRobotics’ exoskeleton WIM. Consisting of a belt pack with foldable arms, WIM aids users in lifting their legs and can help users conserve 20 percent more energy while walking. While the exoskeleton can be applied to rehabilitative settings, it can also improve one’s walking in general and provide resistance training for more intense exercise.

 

A person wearing the HAL lower limb exoskeleton on their lower limbs.
HAL captures brain signal through sensors on the user's legs to help the user walk. | Image: Cyberdyne

Cyberdyne: HAL for Medical Use (Lower Limb)

Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) is used by patients who suffer from spinal cord injuries, cerebrovascular diseases, traumatic brain injuries and other neuromuscular diseases or injuries. Brain signals to the muscles are captured on sensors placed on the legs, which feed the information to HAL, which in turn helps the user move and walk with their legs by merely thinking of moving their legs. 

 

A person wheraing the HAL lumbar exoskeleton around the lumbar region of their back.
HAL Lumbar Type for Labor Support exoskeleton is designed to provide lumbar support when users are lifting and moving items or people, or seniors seeking physical therapy getting assistance when sitting down or standing up. | Image: Cyberdyne

Cyberdyne: HAL Lumbar Type for Labor Support

HAL can multi-task, serving as both a physical therapy exoskeleton and also one to aid healthcare workers, according to Cyberdyyne’s product page site. The battery-operated HAL Lumbar Type for Labor Support exoskeleton is designed to provide lumbar support when users are lifting and moving items or people, such as nurses moving patients, or seniors seeking physical therapy getting assistance when sitting down or standing up.

 

A person wearing the EskoNR on their legs as a Physical Therapist assists them.
The EskoNR exoskeleton is FDA-approved for neurological rehab and designed to help people walk again. | Image: Esko Bionics

Ekso Bionics: EksoNR

FDA-approved EksoNR is an exoskeleton for neurological rehab patients that is used in healthcare rehabilitation centers. The suit is designed to help brain injury, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury patients, as well as stroke victims, regain their natural walking gait by re-teaching the brain and muscles how to walk. 

 

A 3D rendering of the H-MEX exoskeleton suit that would be worn over the users shoulders and around their back.
The H-MEX exoskeleton aims to help patients sit, stand, walk, navigate stairs and even run if needed. | Image: Hyundai

Hyundai: Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton (H-MEX)

Automotive giant Hyundai hit the accelerator on a new path, expanding into exoskeletons. In addition to developing exoskeletons for assembly line workers to aid them with their overhead work, the automaker also developed one to assist patients suffering from spinal cord injuries with its H-MEX. The device aims to help patients sit, stand, walk, navigate stairs and even run if needed, states the Exoskeleton Report.

 

A person standing with the help of the Phoenix exoskeleton suit around their legs.
The Phoenix exoskeleton suite was designed to help people with mobility disorders stand upright. | Image: Ottobock

Ottobock: Phoenix Medical Exoskeleton

This lightweight exoskeleton is designed to help people who have mobility disorders stand upright and gain mobility. Phoenix has two devices at the hip that prompt the machine to operate. Its knee joints provide support when users are standing and help them clear the ground as their leg swings forward.

 

A 3D rendering of the Rewalk 6.0 to be worn around a users legs.
The ReWalk Personal 6.0 Exoskeleton uses motors to help propel the user forward mimicking the natural movement of their steps. | Image: ReWalk Robotics

Lifeward: ReWalk Personal 6.0 Exoskeleton

This consumer exoskeleton is designed for home use and when users are out and about in the community. It’s a light-weight exoskeleton, with motors at the hip and knee joints and propels a user forward as they lean into their next step, mimicking the natural movement of their steps.

 

A person wearing the Alanlante X exoskeleton around their legs as a physical therapist assists them.
The Atalante X exoskeleton is self-balancing and hands free to help patients suffering from paralysis walk again. | Image: Wandercraft

Wandercraft: Atalante X

Patients suffering from paralysis may be able to walk again with the aid of this self-balancing, hands-free exoskeleton, Wandercraft states on their website. Atalante X allows patients to stand and sit on their own and walk with assistance. It’s designed to be used as a rehabilitation tool following an accident or brain injury that causes paralysis.

 

Therapsists assist a patient wearing the exosuit designed by Harvard and Boston University researchers.
The soft exosuit built by Harvard and Boston University researchers prevents freezing among patients with Parkinson’s and reduces the risk of injury. | Image: Harvard Biodesign Lab

Harvard and Boston University: Rehabilitative Exosuit 

Researchers from Harvard and Boston University teamed up to design a soft robotic exosuit that addresses freezing in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The term ‘freezing’ refers to when Parkinson’s patients instantly become unable to walk, sometimes while in mid-stride. By giving patients’ hips a gentle boost during each step, this exoskeleton suit keeps patients in motion to prevent freezing and reduce the risk of injury as a result.   

 

A physical therapist helps a patient wearing the REX exoskeleton perform an upper-body exercise.
Rex Bionics’ REX can stand on its own, enabling patients to perform a range of exercises during rehabilitation. | Image: Rex Bionics

Rex Bionics: REX 

Patients can enjoy more stability during rehabilitation with Rex Bionics’ REX exoskeleton. REX is able to stand on its own, allowing patients to perform a range of strength resistance and trunk balance activities and reducing the strain put on therapists during these routines. In addition, REX is mobile and flexible, enabling patients to perform lower-body exercises like lunges, squats and leg swings.

 

A person with the Mate exoskeleton attached to their back.
Mate reduces workers upper body fatigue while improving task accuracy and speed. | Image: Comau

Comau: Mate Exoskeleton

Mate is designed to help production workers reduce upper body fatigue by supporting their shoulder movement and has eight different levels of assistance that workers can quickly adjust. The lightweight device operates without a battery or motor and its manufacturer says it can increase overhead task accuracy by 27 percent and execution speed by 10 percent.

 

Window cleaners work while wearing the Ekso EVO exoskeleton.
The Ekso EVO provides support in the arms and neck, leading to fewer injuries and extending workers’ careers. | Image: Ekso Bionics

Ekso Bionics: Ekso EVO

Serving as an upgrade from the company’s EksoVest product, the Ekso EVO is an assistive exoskeleton vest that provides upper-body strength while being more lightweight and comfortable. The product is ideal for workers in manufacturing and other manual labor-heavy industries since it’s intended to reduce stress and fatigue on the arms and neck and lessen one’s risk of injury.

 

A person wearing the HAPO exoskeleton around their back and waist as they work at a construction site.
The HAPO exoskeleton supports the upper body by partially transferring movement from the chest area to the thighs without compressing the spine and, as a result, reduces back strain. | Image: Exxovantage

Exxovantage: HAPO Exoskeleton

Back-breaking farmwork is nothing new, but throwing in technology to extend the life of farmers’ backs is relatively new. Farmers are giving exoskeletons a try like the HAPO system, which is lightweight, batteryless and spring-loaded to ease the demands of repetitive tasks. The exoskeleton supports the upper body by partially transferring movement from the chest area to the thighs without compressing the spine and, as a result, reduces back strain.

 

A person reaching down to lift boxes while wearing the Cray X exoskeleton suit with a signal coming off of it.
The Cray X exoskeleton uses AI, as well as an early warning system, to counter poor posture and harmful lifting practices before they occur due to fatigue. | Image: German Bionic

German Bionic: Cray X Exoskeleton

Cray X is helping manufacturing plant workers reduce their fatigue and injury when lifting objects or carrying them with its X Exoskeleton, according to German Bionic. The device provides support for up to 66 pounds. The lightweight, waterproof exoskeleton uses AI, as well as an early warning system, to counter poor posture and harmful lifting practices before they occur due to fatigue.

More on RoboticsRobots Aren’t Just for High-Tech Labs and Heavy Industry Anymore. And That’s a Good Thing.

 

A person wearing the HA EXO 01 exoskeleton suit around their back as they work overhead at a construction site.
Exoskeleton HA EXO-01 Overhead is a battery-less device designed to support the arms and torso without restricting the range of motion. | Image: Hilti

Hilti: Exoskeleton HA EXO-01 Overhead 

Adding a new twist to the notion of steel girders in the construction industry, builders are putting on their own version of support when doing overhead work with the help of exoskeletons. The ultra-lightweight HA EXO-01 aims to reduce arm and shoulder muscle fatigue when doing overhead work for long periods of time, according to Hilti. It’s a battery-less device designed to support the arms and torso without restricting the range of motion.

 

A 3D rendering of a persons torso wearing the VEX exoskeleton around its arms, waist and back.
VEX assists users with overhead work by reducing strain on the user's shoulders and neck. | Image: Hyundai

Hyundai: Vest Exoskeleton (VEX)

Overhead work can be draining on the shoulders and neck. This exoskeleton aims to reduce the strain for industrial workers with this battery-free device. Vest Exoskeleton imitates the way a shoulder joint operates and is designed to offer load support, mobility and adapt to the way a worker operates when handling overhead tasks, Hyundai said in its report.

 

A person wearing the Ottoback exoskeleton as they work overhead on a car.
The Ottobock Back transfers a weight to a users thighs and can support to weights up to 55 pounds. | Image: ottobock

Ottobock: Ottobock Back

The Ottobock Back exoskeleton provides back support to warehouse workers and helps take a load off of their shoulders when lifting or carrying items and transfers that weight to the user’s thighs, similar to a backpack. It provides up to 55 pounds of support and can tell the difference when bending or walking and can also automatically switch off when needed to provide full freedom of movement, the company noted on its website.

 

A 3D rendering of the Guardian XO exoskeleton suit.
The Guardian exoskeleton uses sensors on the body to enhance the operator’s strength, allowing a user to lift up to 200 pounds without strain or fatigue. | Image: Sarco Robotics

Palladyne AI: Guardian XO

The Guardian XO can be used in a warehouse setting, a manufacturing plant, a construction site or other types of operations that call for physically demanding strength. It is not a tactical military machine — it’s more of a logistics machine. The full-body battery-operated exoskeleton uses sensors on the body to enhance the operator’s strength, allowing a user to lift up to 200 pounds without strain or fatigue.​

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Exoskeleton suits designed for certain body parts and full-body exoskeleton suits have been developed for specialized purposes and settings. No exoskeleton suit has been made available to the broader public.

Exoskeleton suits start at around $5,000, but they can easily reach as much as $50,000 to $70,000.

The U.S. military started experimenting with exoskeletons when it helped fund GE’s development of the Hardiman exoskeleton in 1965. More recently, the military has moved closer to wider adoption of exoskeletons in combat with the creation of the Soldier Assistive Bionic Exosuit for Resupply (SABER).

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