This article presents a novel robotic assistive device for the handling of large payloads. The design of the robot is based on the application of the following fundamental mechanical principles: inertia is minimized, a parallel closed-loop cable/belt routing system is used to kinematically decouple the transmission from fixed actuators and to the end-effector, and variable static balancing is used to minimize the actuation forces required for vertical motion. As a result, the device requires only low power, thereby improving safety, and can be operated manually, even in the event of a power failure (with minimum backup power for brake release). A novel force/torque sensor is also introduced along with a control algorithm based on variable admittance that provides a very intuitive interface for physical human-robot cooperation. Finally, a full-scale prototype integrating all of the above concepts is presented.