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Cyberdyne's HAL suit goes into mass production this year. It will increase the users strength by as much as tenfold. Approximately 400 units will be produced by the next year.  (Source: Cyberdyne Corp.)
Dreams of real life robocops will be brought to life with new Japanese invention

What's blue and white and has the strength of superhero?  The answer, will soon be a human sporting a Cyberdyne Corporation suit. While the name of this Japanese firm, taken from the evil corporation in the movie Terminator, may make some a bit uneasy, its hard to fault its dream -- bringing to life the dreams of mech suits that military and fictional minds have had for decades.

Cyberdyne has partnered with Daiwa House to finally bring its HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) suit into mass production.  The company plans on offering 400 of the units, which are expected to be in short supply, to private and government buyers, at a cost of $4,200 for the suit.

The suit is truly revolutionary in that its the first publicly offered suit to increase the strength of both arms and legs to superhuman levels -- over ten times the strength of an average human.  The suit has special pads which attach to muscles and detect electrical signals form the brain.  As the muscle moves, so does the suit, augmenting the power of movements.  Special care is taken to respect the range of motion and not go too fast, so as not to damage delicate tendons, ligaments, and bones.

In short, the new suit allows an average human to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.  Cyberdyne describes its revolutionary product, stating:
When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via motoneuron, moving the musculoskeletal system as a consequence. At this moment, very weak biosignals can be detected on the surface of the skin. HAL catches these signals through a sensor attached on the skin of the wearer. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit is controlled to wearer’s daily activities.
Demand for the new suit is expected to be huge.  From disaster relief and industrial construction, to military applications, there are many potential uses.  Perhaps the most valuable one is that the suit will allow the elderly or disabled to perform activities that they previously could not, by granting them normal strength and then some.

While the HAL suit is certainly impressive, it's even more fun to dream about what can come next.  With so much promise from the first model alone, it should be great to see what future models can accomplish -- longer autonomous battery life, more power, and possibly upgrades for military applications.  The HAL is one of those kinds of inventions that reminds you that the future is here, and is knocking on your door.

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That much power from that tiny battery? Really?
By Zephyrr on 4/10/2009 10:52:02 PM , Rating: 2
Just what kind of motors does this thing use? How fast can it move? (I could sort of imagine high strength if it's geared way down). And how can it get much power from such a tiny waist mounted battery?

We get so used to exponential growth in electronic complexity and speed (bits can be made smaller and faster), that we expect everything technical to grow by quantum leaps. But batteries are getting better very slowly, likewise motors.

It's also suspicious that it would sense muscle nerves - kind of a low level noisy signal. So in that case, where does the feedback come from - the pushback that allows you to "feel" how hard you are pushing so you can balance, etc?

Look at the hands - if you want to lift a car, you had better have damn strong wrists and bones, or it's going to be more like having your hand trapped between a car and a bumper jack (the suit under your hand). Sure, you can "lift" a car now - just put your hand under the bumper and a jack under your hand and have somebody crank away. Or substitute a powersuit for the jack - your flesh is still the padding.

By whiskerwill on 4/11/2009 12:26:57 AM , Rating: 2
how can it get much power from such a tiny waist mounted battery?
A human puts out about 1/3 of a horsepower. 10X human strength would therefore be about 3 horsepower. That doesn't exactly take a lot of juice to run.

By mindless1 on 4/11/2009 1:57:39 AM , Rating: 2
For longer than a demo it would, IF the capabilities of the suit are as suggested and put to use.

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