Kia Motors develop wearable robots including Vest Exoskeleton

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As a key part of Hyundai Motor Group, Kia Motors is innovating with robotics technology through the development of the Hyundai Vest Exoskeleton (H-VEX) wearable industrial robots.

Following the Hyundai Chairless Exoskeleton (H-CEX) demonstration conducted at the Hyundai-Kia North American factory last August – see pic above – the company plans to verify H-VEX’s success through extensive testing at the end of 2018.

In early 2018, Hyundai Motor Group identified Robot-Artificial Intelligence as one of five areas of future innovation and growth. The company established a designated robotics team in its strategic technology headquarters to focus on the development of related tech, and is expanding its cooperation with associated sectors.

  • Kia and Hyundai develop robotics technology in three areas: wearable robots, service robots, and micro-mobility
  • Hyundai Vest Exoskeleton (H-VEX) and Chairless Exoskeleton (H-CEX) industrial robots increase efficiency and prevent work-related accidents
  • Robot-Artificial Intelligence targeted for future innovation and growth

The first H-CEX was developed for industrial use. It is a knee-joint protective device that helps maintain a worker’s sitting position. Weighing in at 1.6kg it is light yet highly durable, and can withstand weights of up to 150kg. With waist, thigh and knee belts it can be easily fitted and adjusted to the user’s height.

Along with the H-CEX, the Hyundai Motor Group team plan to test and apply the H-VEX in its North American factories at the end of the year. H-VEX is a device that alleviates pressure on workers’ neck and back by adding 60kg of strength to the user when their arms are used overhead. It is expected to be very effective at preventing injury and increasing work efficiency.

There are a variety of applications and fields that robots can be developed for, such as wearables, service robots and micro mobility. Hyundai Motor Group showcased the Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton (H-MEX), which assists paraplegics and elderly people with walking and traversing staircases, at the 2017 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It is currently in the process of being approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in Korea, and by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for commercialization as a medical device.

Another Hyundai Motor Group development in robotics, the Hyundai Universal Medical Assist (HUMA) can be applied to the waist and legs to strengthen the muscles while walking, enabling users to achieve a running speed of 12km/h (approx. 7.5mph) and making it one of the fastest wearable robots in the world.

Other than wearables, robots that can improve the quality of a user’s life are being created. The ‘Hotel Service Robot’ can, among other functions, take care of room service and guide guests around a hotel. The robots will be tested at the end of the year at South Korea’s Haevichi hotel and resort, and the Rolling Hills hotel.

Finally, the ‘Sales Service Robot’ that was modelled last year can explain car details to customers. It is equipped a with natural language conversation system, artificial intelligence, and a mobility function, providing the ability to consult with customers about vehicle models in showrooms.

Says Dr. Youngcho Chi, Executive Vice President of Strategy & Technology Division and Chief Innovation Officer of Hyundai Motor Group said,

“The field of robotics has the potential to usher in a new era in our industry. The possibilities for the technology are endless – from future mobility solutions and industrial productivity aids to vital military applications, we think the future is better with robots.

“The huge collective experience within the Hyundai Motor Group will facilitate rapid progress in the coming years. We are excited about current developments, and very optimistic for the use of this technology to improve lives around the globe.”

Chris Price