Starting this Friday, disabled and elderly people in Japan will be able to rent a robotic suit to help them become more mobile. Available in a two-leg (for a $2200-per-month rental fee) or one-leg version ($1500/month), the suit -- called HAL, for Hybrid Assistive Limb -- reads brain signals and directs leg movement.
Yoshiyuki Sankai, the creator of the robot suit, is a professor at the University of Tsukuba and the CEO of Cyberdyne, which is manufacturing and renting the suits.
In a report at Cyberdyne.jp, Sankai explains: "[there are] faint bio-signals on the surface of the skin when human brain tries to move the exoskeleton. The signals are detected and the robot suit moves to support the action."
The HAL suit includes a 22-pound battery worn on the waist to power the leg braces, enabling the wearer to climb stairs and walk for long distances. In a demo held this week, Cyberdyne showed how a man with partial leg paralysis could use the device. Sankai says the suit will not be made available for military or other purposes.
Cyberdyne did not reveal the cost to develop or manufacture the robot, but the company plans to sell and rent the device on a broad scale in Japan as a way to help those who need more mobility.
It's not clear when, if ever, the HAL robotic suit will be available outside of Japan.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.