It’s called Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL). The brainchild of Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai, founder of Cyberdyne Inc. in Japan, a robotics and technology company. After Yoshiyuki earned his doctorate in engineering, he studied artificial organs, and began contemplating the idea of human enhancement suits, ultimately resulting in HAL, a robotic device that fits over the body to assist in the movement of limbs, and especially promising in helping people walk again after years of immobility or paralysis of the legs due to spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, aging, cerebrovascular diseases, and diseases of brain and the neuromuscular system. With these conditions, the brain can no longer use ordinary neural pathways where all nerve communication is lost to the legs. This amazing robotic extension can not only give the patient instant mobility, but also retrains the brain in how to move their legs.
WWWNormally, when the brain thinks of walking, signals are sent to the muscles via nerve pathways, and since those pathways are destroyed in these patients, the impulses have to means of travel to get where they need to go, however, those signals are leaked to the skin surface, whereby the HAL device, or suit, reads those faint nerve signals on the skin as the patient concentrates on walking, again allowing communication with the leg muscles, thereby prompting them to begin moving and obeying the intention of the wearer. Within the waist band is a computer which interprets the signals and choreographs the cyborg suit to move in perfect stride and motion, and incredibly allows the patient to walk. The robotic suit can be adjusted to fit the patients, leg lengths, hip widths and foot sizes. Professor Sankai expresses,
Humans’ physical functions get weaker as they age or experience sickness or injuries. How to support the weakened or paralyzed physical functions or improve them is a significant issue.
By using the system, their intentions drive the robots, and simultaneously
the robots drive the human bodies.
He tells of a woman who was stricken with a stroke twice, her doctor telling her she would never walk again, yet after only two months of therapy with HAL she now can walk with the aid of a cane. Now the astonishing thing about this therapy is the fact that with persistent use of HAL, it may allow communication networks between the nervous and muscular systems to regenerate, helping people walk even after the suit is removed, retraining the body to move as it once did, as was the case with one man who was paralyzed from the waist down from a bicycle accident who can now manage to walk slowing for short distances completely unassisted. Since 2010, Cyberdyne has leased 300 HAL suits to 150 hospitals and other facilities, and is recognized as a medical device in Europe.
Cyberdyne also has a full body cyber suit that increases a persons strength up to seven times, and can be used in other applications such as rescue, construction work, astronauts working in outer space, and of course the military. Right now at the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster site, workers need to wear protective suits against the radiation levels which are heavy and difficult to work in. So they are using Cyberdyne’s full body robotic suits to increase their strength, overcoming the burdensome weight.
WWWThere’s no question this technology holds even greater promise as it evolves, offering victims of disease and accidents a new lease on life, and extending humans’ capabilities to accomplish extraordinary things.