Industrial manipulators generally resemble articulating jib cranes, (and some say robots) but the lift is provided by a powered parallel link to lift the products. They allow a product to be supported rigidly, which may allow sub assembly or processing the part being lifted. The manipulator's articulation allows the arm to reach around or under obstructions.
Manufacturing of the arms requires close tolerance machining of the joints and quality of manufacture should be a prime consideration in a purchase decision.
The use of a manipulator is sometimes more cumbersome than a below the hook lift assist, as the reach is radial and the operator usually has to learn what area he can cover and how to move with the manipulator. However, the installation of a manipulator may be easier than a crane with a lift assist.