Can pairing man with machine help prevent common industrial workplace injuries? A number of research institutions across Europe seem to think so. They've banded together to help further development of Robo-mate, an exoskeleton that some experts claim could be a viable aid to factory employees within just three years. According to BBC News, the project — which has already earned €4.5 million in EU funding — has also picked up support from automaker Fiat and Indra, a French car recycling company.

As those partnerships suggest, the robotic suit would help most in factories where workers follow established, repetitive routines. "It offers a hybrid approach in which the robotic parts support the human who can provide the decisions and cognition needed," Dr. Carmen Constantinescu told BBC News. The teams behind Robo-mate still face a significant challenge in constructing an exoskeleton that's inviting and not overly cumbersome. "It is vital that the operator can perform dexterously with natural movements without having to think about it," roboticist Noel Sharkey said.