Print 64 comment(s) - last by Pavelyoung.. on Oct 30 at 5:49 PM

  (Source: Education & Technology)

The new HAL suit not only wins for being light and sporting a long battery life -- it also wins on power, almost doubling the strength of a healthy adult, and adding enough strength for a handicapped adult to walk.  (Source: Cyberdyne)

Tsukuba University postgraduate student Takeru Sakurai shows off how the suit could be used to help rescue Japanese dames.  (Source: AFP)

A climber shows off the legs-only version of the suit, and how he can use it to support the weight of a human passenger.  (Source: Cyberdyne)
No, it's not a bad science fiction movie nightmare; Cyberdyne and HAL are working together in real life to help paralyzed humans

One popular series at DailyTech took an exclusive look at building a real-life Iron Man and the technologies needed to deliver both exoskeleton enhanced strength, speed, and flight.  One conclusion of that series is that while impressive, modern exoskeleton technologies will need to advance greatly, before a superhero-like suit can be created.

Now new advances from Japan bring us a bit closer to that goal.  Cyberdyne, a company just outside of Tokyo, has developed and is marketing a new exoskeleton which brings a lot to the table.  The new device can help elderly and the disabled walk again.  Even partially paralyzed people can walk with the new device.  The suit's design was led by Tsukuba University engineering professor Yoshiyuki Sankai.

Japan, famous for its science fiction stories in which cybernetics technology has become so ubiquitous that man and machine become one, is perhaps an unsurprising home for such advances in exoskeleton research.  The new device, the “hybrid assistive limb,” HAL for short, attaches to the user's body at their thigh, waist, and calf.  Based on how much (if any) movement the person can provide to their leg, the robotic legs will fill in the remaining force necessary to move the legs in a normal, albeit a bit slow, walking motion. 

The device is remarkably light, considering its power, weighing in with battery at only 22 pounds.  The battery carries a 5 hour charge.  The exoskeleton's efficiency is enhanced by the fact that its architecture is self-supporting, so extra power does not need to be devoted to supporting itself, merely to turning the legs.

A person with normal strength would also get a boost from the suit.  Someone who could leg-press 250 pounds would now be able to life 450 pounds with the help of the suit.  The suit is making a splash thanks to a paralyzed Japanese quadriplegic, Seiji Uchida, who plans on climbing a Swiss peak by riding piggyback on an experienced climber that is wearing the suit to help him support the extra weight.

For now, only the Japanese get to enjoy this new device -- Cyberdyne has no plans currently announced to bring it to America.  In Japan you can rent one leg for $1,500 or two legs for $2,200.00 a month -- a bit pricey, certainly. Similar, less efficient devices are near to reaching the market in America.

Mech junkies will also be pleased to note that Cyberdyne has also designed a full body suit, the HAL-5 Type B, which includes arm support, allowing users to lift heavy objects.  The suit is currently unreleased and no pricing has been announced yet.

The full body suit is expected to weigh around 60 pounds, mostly self-supported (36 pound lower body, 34 pound upper body).  It can currently operate for just under 3 hours on a single charge.  Cyberdyne is suggesting it be used for "heavy labour support at factories, and rescue support at disaster sites, as well as in the entertainment field" as well as medical purposes.

Some have pondered at the curious naming of both the company and the robotic names.  In perhaps a humorous homage, the company shares the name with the sinister company in the Terminator movie franchise, which is responsible for unleashing Terminator robots on the world.  The device, HAL, also seems to pay homage to the malefic spaceship supercomputer featured in the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey.

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Great developments...
By Amiga500 on 10/27/2008 12:14:02 PM , Rating: 2
Imagine the difference this would make to rescue workers on earthquake (etc) sites.

Able to move large debris without resorting to awkward heavy machinery.

Unfortunately the military will undoubtedly be looking into it as a more efficient way of killing people.

RE: Great developments...
By bldckstark on 10/27/2008 12:22:58 PM , Rating: 3
The thing is, a lot of great things come from research into better ways to kill people. Take space flight for example. If we weren't trying to fly bombs all over the world we might not have made it to the moon.

And how about those really cool camoflage rifles at Wal-Mart? Okay, maybe not those.

RE: Great developments...
By StevoLincolnite on 10/27/2008 10:57:06 PM , Rating: 3
Cyberdyne... Datadyne... Anyone else see the resemblance? There going to take over the world!

RE: Great developments...
By monitorjbl on 10/28/2008 12:58:37 AM , Rating: 4
Joanna could stop them.

RE: Great developments...
By FoundationII on 10/27/2008 12:56:50 PM , Rating: 2
Unless I'm very much mistaking the military already tried to buy the suit, but Cyberdyne refused to sell it to them.

RE: Great developments...
By Pavelyoung on 10/30/2008 5:49:48 PM , Rating: 2
Thats why they developed their own version.

RE: Great developments...
By the goat on 10/27/2008 12:58:35 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately the military will undoubtedly be looking into it as a more efficient way of killing people.

So you want wars to be fought with more primitive weapons so as to prolong the killing and suffering?

If you actually thought about it for 2.2 seconds you would see that more efficient ways of killing people actually save lives in the long run. If the same war can be concluded in half the time then less people will starve or get sick or be refugees etc.

RE: Great developments...
By geddarkstorm on 10/27/2008 1:19:38 PM , Rating: 3
I had to only think about it for 2.159 seconds, what about you?

There's both good and bad to such advances. If it is easier to kill people en mass, which is what war is verses say a mafia hit, with less collateral damage, then there is less incentive (due to less of an outcry over said collateral damage) to not wipe out some band of pesky humans being a thorn in your world view's side; instead of reasoning with them or finding other peaceful solutions. Certainly, if killing reaches a certain level of efficiency, it'll be a lot easier to do that than seek diplomacy. So, while less collatoral damage is all well and good, the problem crops up with who has this ability and who are they labeling "pesky humans"? However, this is only a fundamental issue with human nature that will continue to be a problem no matter what level of technology we are using.

RE: Great developments...
By madoka on 10/27/2008 3:27:08 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, this is precisely what happened with the Eminian Union who was at war with the Vendikar for over 500 years. Their war is fought by computer simulations instead of real weapons, and the people calculated as casualties voluntarily report to disintigration chambers to die, but the planets' culture and infrastructure survive. Killing became so clean and simple that they had no incentive to stop their war. It was only after Capt. Kirk destroyed their simulation computers that. . .

Oh snap! I've confused reality with Star Trek again. . .

RE: Great developments...
By Noya on 10/27/2008 3:38:25 PM , Rating: 2
Imagine the difference this would make to rescue workers on earthquake (etc) sites. Able to move large debris without resorting to awkward heavy machinery.

I don't think so. Look at the demo pics, he's carrying a person on his arms or on his back.

I don't see bionic hands that would give the grip strength and wear resistance to lift large, heavy chunks of debris like concrete and steel.

RE: Great developments...
By DJMiggy on 10/28/2008 12:20:24 AM , Rating: 2
Imagine trying to lift something like that and it ripping off your hands. ouuuch!

RE: Great developments...
By MamiyaOtaru on 10/28/2008 6:39:56 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Say you fall over forward for whatever reason and stick your hands out to catch yourself. You'll be more likely to sprain or break a wrist having to catch your own weight plus the weight of the exoskeleton

RE: Great developments...
By nugundam93 on 10/28/2008 11:30:47 AM , Rating: 2
well they gotta start somewhere... :)

RE: Great developments...
By FITCamaro on 10/28/2008 7:18:27 AM , Rating: 1
No the military will be looking into it as a more efficient way of killing the bad guys while keeping our troops alive.

RE: Great developments...
By mars777 on 10/28/2008 11:02:46 PM , Rating: 3
Killing for peace is like having sex for virginity...

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