Communion Of Dreams


Meet “HAL”, from the Cyberdyne Corporation.
August 4, 2009, 12:22 pm
Filed under: Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, tech

No, I’m not kidding:

* “Robot Suit HAL” is a cyborg-type robot that can expand and improve physical capability.
* 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 move the joint unitedly with the wearer’s muscle movement, enabling to support the wearer’s daily activities. This is what we call a ‘voluntary control system’ that provides movement interpreting the wearer’s intention from the biosignals in advance of the actual movement. Not only a ‘voluntary control system’ “HAL” has, but also a ‘robotic autonomous control system’ that provides human-like movement based on a robotic system which integrally work together with the ‘autonomous control system’. “HAL” is the world’s first cyborg-type robot controlled by this unique Hybrid System.
* “HAL” is expected to be applied in various fields such as rehabilitation support and physical training support in medical field, ADL support for disabled people, heavy labour support at factories, and rescue support at disaster sites, as well as in the entertainment field.

Here’s what the Telegraph had to say:

Japanese ‘robot suit’ to help disabled

The suit, called HAL – or Hybrid Assistive Limb – is the work of Cyberdyne Corporation in Japan, and has been created to “upgrade the existing physical capabilities of the human body”.

* * *

People with physical disabilities, such as stroke-induced paralysis or spinal cord injuries, can hire the suit at a cost of Y220,000 (£1,370) per month, and Cyberdyne Corporation believes the technology can have a variety of applications, including in physical training and rehabilitation, adding extra “muscle” to heavy labour jobs, and even in rescue and recovery operations.

HAL can help the wearer to carry out a variety of every day tasks, including standing up from a chair, walking, climbing up and down stairs, and lifting heavy objects. The suit can operate for almost five hours before it needs recharging, and Cyberdyne Corporation says that it does not feel heavy to wear, because the robotic exoskeleton supports its own weight.

There’s even video (in Japanese, but you get the idea):

Now, I’ve written about these sorts of things before, but this one does seem to be an improvement over the other versions. And it is good that there is some actual competition, from a source which isn’t tied to the US military-industrial complex. What strikes me as particularly promising is the biosensors being used, picking up very subtle nerve impulses. Once you solve that problem, there is no longer either a learning-curve the user has to go through, nor a lag-time which they have to compensate for, making the use of this technology completely intuitive and natural.

Interesting. Very interesting.

Jim Downey

(Via MeFi.)


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