Farming is backbreaking work even when you’re young–all that bending down repeatedly under the beating sun can take its toll. Researchers at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology think they have a fix for aging farmers: a robo-suit that makes workers’ arms and legs stronger. The metal and plastic device features eight electric motors as well as a voice-recognition system and sensors that track movement.
So far, the researchers have developed two models. One 66 pound model is intended for heavy lifting, while a smaller model is designed for easier jobs–i.e. picking grapes. According to researchers working on the project, the robo-suits can cut down on users’ physical exertion by 62%.
Such technology doesn’t come cheap. When the robo-suit goes on sale in Japan in 2012, researchers expect that it will cost $11,000. It will still probably sell well, however, since two-thirds of Japan’s agricultural workers are over 65. Next up: adding augmented reality technology to the suits. Augmented reality goggles could, for example, tell workers when grapes are ripe. They could also keep track of users’ vital signs.
Sadly, the robo-suits probably won’t be manufactured outside of Japan. That’s because younger migrant workers are responsible for the majority of farming duties in Europe and the U.S.