SciTech Right-Out Of Science Fiction

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HAL anticipates and supports the user's body movements.

Japan's Cyberdyne may share its name with the company responsible for nuclear destruction and the killer robots of the Terminator movie series, but the similarities end there.

And if the idea of a robot suit helping those with disabilities to walk sounds like the stuff of science fiction, think again: the real-life Cyberdyne is in the business of revolutionising lives. The firm produces an exoskeleton robot device called the Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL, which in another sci-fi related coincidence shares its name with the devious computer in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It gives power to its wearer by anticipating and supporting the user's body movements using sensors monitoring electric signals sent from the brain to the muscles. Current options are for a single leg device or both legs.

HAL has many potential applications, from assisting caregivers lift people to helping construction workers or even firefighters.

In one case, three weeks of training with HAL enabled a man who had suffered brain injuries to stand on his own feet after nine years in a wheelchair, said Cyberdyne CEO Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor at the University of Tsukuba.

The group is now gearing up for mass-production and started leasing the battery-powered suit to welfare facilities last year.

“Developing robots without utilising them in society would just be an extension of a hobby,” Mr. Sankai (52), said. “What I develop should be part of society and benefit people.”

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/article948434.ece
 

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