Sunday, August 07, 2005

HAL-5 Robo-suit

I went back to the Aichi World Expo to see a special prototype robot exhibition that was running for 2 weeks only. There were many robots there and I will be highlighting them in this blog in the weeks to come. First up is not strictly a robot but a "Power-assist" suit called "Robot suit HAL-5." It is an exoskeleton that augments the strength of the wearer. It is interesting that these suits feature heavily in Japanese science fiction manga (usually in a more massive and heavily-armed form). One can`t help wondering just how much some of the scientists involved have been influenced by the manga and anime they have been exposed too! The suit works by detecting nerve impulses heading to muscles and anticipating which muscle will be moved. Electric motors in the suit`s joints are then activated to move in tadem with the joint, providing extra strength. The suit has obvious uses for people who suffer from weak muscles, those who need to lift heavy objects as well as obvious military uses. New Scientist has run a story on the suit and the Japanese research group from Tsukuba University has apparently set up a company to promote the suit here. Note that the suit is called HAL and the company is called Cyberdyne. These people really like their science-fiction! By the way the suit looks much more impressive when switched on with all the joints bathed in a blue neon light!