By John Boyd, New Scientist
A ROBOT suit has been developed that could help older people or those with disabilities to walk or lift heavy objects. Dubbed HAL, or hybrid assistive limb, the latest versions of the suit will be unveiled this June at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan, which opened last month. A commercial product is slated for release by the end of the year. HAL is the result of 10 years’ work by Yoshiyuki Sankai of the University of Tsukuba in Japan, and integrates mechanics, electronics, bionics and robotics in a new field known as cybernics. The most fully developed prototype, HAL 3, is a motor-driven metal “exoskeleton” that you strap onto your legs to power-assist leg movements. A backpack holds a computer with a wireless network connection, and the batteries are on a belt.
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