company has created a robotic exoskeleton that is designed
to help make disabled people mobile again, enabling them to stand up,
walk and even climb stairs.
How the Robot Suit Works
robots and realistic humanoid robots are just two of the numerous kinds
of robots that are already in use. A robot suit is a wearable device
that dramatically increases the strength of the wearer. Robot Suit HAL
is worn over the arms and legs and assists body movement through eight
electric motors attached to shoulders, elbows, knees, and the waist.
it supports the wearer's own limb movements, the robot suit must detect
how the wearer is trying to move his or her arms and legs and quickly
respond. Most of the robots that have been developed so far in this
field rely on sensors to detect motion and then activate motors.
method, however, has some drawbacks. First, there is a slight time lag
from when the wearer moves a muscle to when the robot responds. Second,
people who are unable to move their arms and legs can't use such a
robot at all. These issues had been viewed as obstacles to a wide
commercialization of robot suits. Robot Suit HAL, however, has overcome
these limitations using a unique method that senses bioelectric signals
sent from brain, rather than detecting muscle movements.
you want to move your body, your brain sends out an electric signal
that is received by your muscles, which then contract, thus producing
motion. This electric signal travels to the muscles via the body's
nerves, generating a slight voltage of electricity on the surface of
the skin. This is known as a bioelectric signal, and Robot Suit HAL
detects them using the sensors placed around the wearer's body.
Depending on the voltage running the surface of the skin, the computer
inside Robot Suit HAL analyzes the signal and sets the appropriate
motors in motion.
Variety of Potential Uses
This unique method of operation means that a person can control Robot
Suit HAL by his or her own will, even if he or she is unable to
actually move. And as the suit detects the signal sent from the brain
even before it gets to the muscle, it can move an instant before the
a person wearing Robot Suit HAL picks up an object that weighs 40 kg,
he/she feels as if it weighed only a few kilograms. Robot Suit HAL is
therefore expected to have a wide range of applications, such as
assisting carers, helping people with physical disabilities to move,
and assisting people performing jobs that require a great deal of
physical strength. In order to facilitate the commercialization
process, Professor Sankai and others formed Cyberdyne Inc. in 2004. In
October 2008, the company moved into a factory currently
construction that will allow them to manufacture up to 500 suits a year.
other types of robot suits are also under development in Japan. Toyama
Shigeki, a Professor of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology,
leads a team that is currently developing a power-assist suit, which
will be used to help agricultural work. Their goal is to place the
product on the market within the next few years. In addition,
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. has set up Activelink Co., a venture
business, to work to develop power-assist suits.