Cyberdyne out of Tsukuba, Japan is making its power assist robosuit, dubbed Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL), available as a rental to Japanese patients suffering from neuromuscular disorders, and to those who simply have difficulty walking.
From a press release:
The special suit was developed by Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor at the University of Tsukuba and Chief Executive Officer of Cyberdyne, the university’s spin-off firm.
The suit, called Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL, aids wearers by detecting electrical signals on the skin that are sent from the brain to the muscles, and responding accordingly.
The one- and two-legged models currently available are designed to help people with lower-body disabilities to walk.
Cyberdyne also intends to commercialize a full-body model in April at the earliest that will enable the wearer to lift heavy objects or even people.
More from the device page:
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.
Press release: Cyberdyne, Daiwa House to Lease Assistive Robotic Suit
Product page: Robot Suit HAL
Flashbacks: Robo Suit Helps Quadriplegic; HAL 3