Japan's obsession with robots and the cold hand of technology have reached out to the disabled, offering hope and help in the form of a robot exoskeleton robotic suit called the Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL.
The robot suit grants the wearer power by using sensors monitoring electric signals sent from the brain to the muscles to both anticipate and support body movements.
Although the beneficent robot suit shares its name with the company responsible for nuclear destruction and Terminator movie fame, humane revolution is the mantra of this Cyberdine, for the disabled specifically.
HAL currently offers two options: the single or double leg device. (In this case, one size sort of fits all). It has many applications, and can be used for everything from assisting caregivers lift people to aiding construction workers or even firefighters in their arduous tasks.
In a wheelchair for nine years and after three weeks of training with HAL, a man who had suffered brain injuries was finally able to stand on his own feet.
Encouraged, the folks at Cyberdine are preparing to mass produce HAL and have already started leasing the battery-powered suit to welfare facilities.
"Developing robots without utilizing them in society would just be an extension of a hobby. What I develop should be part of society and benefit people… Many in the research and development field are motivated by their own interest…Research isn't for just writing papers," said Cyberdyne CEO Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor at the University of Tsukuba.
Some 50 Japanese hospitals and homes for the elderly in Japan are already using a lower-limb version of HAL to assist disabled people. Rental fees for both legs are 140,000-150,000 yen (1,600-1,800 dollars) a month!
The full-body version for caregivers, which assists both arms and legs and allows users to carry a load of up to 70 kilogrammes (154 pounds) with one arm
will be available next year. Consumes may be able to buy HAL by 2015.
Hey, HAL, welcome to the world.
Good to know you are here.