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News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

Are exoskeletons the future of physical labor?

• by Lauren Goode

There are 3,500 people working in Ford's final assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, where a steady stream of car husks are transformed into drivable vehicles hundreds of times a day. It's what you might imagine a car factory would be like, if you've never been to one before: it's noisy, with lots of moving parts, Hi-Lo forklifts driving by, and various audible signals playing overhead that are programmed to grab the attention of workers.

Paul Collins sticks out along the final assembly line because of the vest he's wearing. Since May of this year, Collins — who goes by "Woody" and has worked in the plant since 1995 — has been beta-testing an exoskeleton vest. He's one of four workers in the Michigan area who have been wearing the vests, which were paid for by the United Automobile Workers union, in an attempt to reduce shoulder injury.

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