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  (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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The real iron man
By vapore0n on 10/27/2008 1:18:18 PM , Rating: 2
Here is the US version
http://www.videosift.com/video/Raytheon-Sarcos-Exo...

Its not battery powered, but it can at least do a lot more than carry a small female in the back.




RE: The real iron man
By Griswold on 10/27/2008 2:27:56 PM , Rating: 1
Yea great. Pull the plug and remove the safety line and the wearer is buried underneath this thing. Its kinda irrelevant what it may look like or how it may work in the future when the main culprit of these suits is (and will be for a while) the power supply. With that said, the HAL is more impressive because it looks almost ready for primetime in households while the sarcos suit is a mere concept prototype of something that will be a military application sometime in the future.

Not impressed.


RE: The real iron man
By RedStihl on 10/27/2008 5:52:18 PM , Rating: 2
Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!


RE: The real iron man
By aquraishi on 10/28/2008 10:05:13 AM , Rating: 1
Tony had a Mac.


RE: The real iron man
By Fireshade on 10/29/2008 10:09:00 AM , Rating: 2
I'm wondering why the guy wears a helmet in the first place. What is he afraid of? Prototype going berzerk perhaps?


RE: The real iron man
By FoundationII on 10/27/2008 4:12:28 PM , Rating: 2
A big difference between those is that HAL doesn't have those hand clasps. The strength in the wearers hands isn't augmented. So while the HAL can augment someones strength tenfold, it still needs to be within the limits of the wearers forearm/gripping strength.

With those clasps on the other hand you can get the full potential of the exoskeleton. Conveniently enough in that video the right clasps were always attached to the exoskeleton though. If you need fine motions with your hands you can't use that exoskeleton either (or at least not the arms).


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