Inventors of the Month - June 2017

This article was posted on: June 11, 2017

Alan Asbeck, Emily Beauchamp, Jack Geissinger, Taylor Pesek

“Back Exoskeleton to Assist Lifting”

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Alan Asbeck, Emily Beauchamp, Jack Geissinger, and Taylor Pesek from the mechanical engineering department as Inventors of the Month for June 2017 for the invention “Back Exoskeleton to Assist Lifting,” disclosed to Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc.

If you read the Virginia Tech Daily news email or follow Virginia Tech on social media, you likely saw this article or YouTube video highlighting Alan Asbeck’s research with Lowe’s Innovation Labs, developing assistive technology to help employees with lifting products in Lowe’s stores.

The robotic exosuit offloads the weight of the wearer’s torso, enabling them to lift objects weighing up to 30% of their body weight without additional strain. It also minimizes the energy used to bend forward and straighten back up. The exosuit is currently being tested at the Lowe’s store in Christiansburg, Virginia, so be sure to look for employees wearing it on your next trip to pick up tools or gardening supplies. Through the ongoing research agreement, VTIP has licensed this technology to Lowe’s for the home improvement field of use, but there may be many other potential applications in the future.

Virginia Tech researchers worked with Lowe's Innovation Labs to develop the exoskeleton.

An employee at Lowe's in Christiansburg, Virginia wears the back exoskeleton device while lifting heavy materials for a customer.

Photos courtesy of Lowe's.

Photo of Inventor of the Month Alan AsbeckAlan Asbeck is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Assistive Robotics Lab, where his research interests include designing flexible human interfaces for mechanical and electrical systems, understanding human biomechanics and the body’s internal control strategy, and creating sensors and control systems for wearable robots, all with the goals of enabling people to regain lost capabilities or to perform feats that were not previously possible. Asbeck earned a B.S. in physics as well as a B.S. and M.Eng. in electrical engineering from MIT before completing his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University and postdoctoral research at both Stanford and Harvard University.

Emily Beauchamp, an engineering mechanics master’s candidate from Norton, Virginia; Jack Geissinger, an undergraduate student from Virginia Beach majoring in engienering science and mechanics; and Taylor Pesek, a mechanical engineering master’s candidate from Richfield, Ohio, are co-inventors on the patent application that has been filed for the assistive exoskeleton.

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