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Gene J. Puskar / AP

If you want to work at Lowes, you "must be able to lift up to 70 pounds," according to the company's job description. That's not easy, especially when you could be lifting 70-pound objects multiple times throughout the eight-hour workday. That's where robots come in to help — but this time, they're not taking anyone's job.

Virginia Tech and Lowes teamed up to create robotic exosuits. They're a lightweight suit outfitted with lift-assist technology to help employees lift products easier.

Why it matters: Although these exosuits are the first of their kind at Lowes, it's a promising example of how robots can empower humans to perform better at work rather than replace them altogether. Furthermore, these exosuits could expand opportunities for older workers who want to get back into the labor force at a place like Lowes, who would otherwise be barred from the physical requirements.

How they work: When the employee bends down and stands back up, the exosuit is made of carbon fibers. Those fibers stretch back and launch forward (think: a bow and arrow motion) when the employee bends down and stands back up. By storing the exosuit user's energy and restoring it back to them, the employee will have an easier time getting back up after bending down to pick up a heavy object.

How they're different: "Our technology is different in that it includes soft and flexible elements, and our approach is unique in that we are putting our prototypes in a real-world environment for an extended period of time," Alan Asbeck, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the VT College of Engineering, told VT news.

What's next: Currently, there are only four of these suits being tested by the stocking team at the Lowes in Christiansburg, Virginia. Asbeck and his team (four undergraduates and four graduates from the Assistive Robotics Laboratory) will work with Lowes over the next few months to figure out the physical limits of their suits and the affect it has on the workers' experiences.

Go deeper

Inflation threatens Latinos' buying power

Expand chart
Data: Hispanic Index of Consumer Sentiment; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Latinos in the U.S. are less optimistic about the economy than they were a year ago as inflation threatens to cut into their buying power.

Why it matters: Latinos have been economic growth drivers for the past decade, opening new businesses at faster rates than other groups and increasing their homeownership rates. The group's overall output would make them the seventh-largest GDP in the world if they were a country.

14 mins ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Frontline Dems seek cover with bipartisan police bill

Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Moderate Frontline Democrats facing tough reelection fights are teaming up with House Republicans on a bill that would effectively help fund the police, according to a copy of the bill text obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: One of Republicans' core and most effective campaign attacks to date is their messaging around progressive rhetoric to "defund the police." Moderate Democrats have long tried to dodge that narrative, acknowledging its political peril despite their support for broader police reform.

Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The U.S. Omicron wave may be peaking, but now COVID deaths are climbing as cases continue to soar in most of the country.

The big picture: Omicron's stranglehold in the U.S. started about a month ago. Its death toll — while almost certain to be smaller than previous waves of the pandemic — is only now starting to take hold, and deaths will likely continue to rise for several weeks.