Disabled Japanese tourist plans robo-suit adventure

Sep 16, 2010 by Harumi Ozawa
Japan's robotics venture Cyberdyne employees wearing the robot-suit "HAL" (Hybrid Assistive Limb) are pictured walking in Tokyo during a demonstration. A Japanese paralympian and adventurer says he wants to conquer a French medieval World Heritage site set on a rocky island next year with the help of the cutting-edge robotic suit.

A disabled Japanese adventurer says he is planning to leave his wheelchair behind and walk up a medieval French World Heritage site next year with the help of a cutting-edge robotic suit.

Seiji Uchida, 48, who lost the ability to walk in a car accident 27 years ago, said he has long dreamed of visiting the picturesque abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, set on a rocky islet in Normandy.

Now, in a challenge planned for next summer, he aims to do so with the help of a , called the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL), which works like an and amplifies the muscle power of its wearer's legs.

Battery-powered HAL -- designed to help the elderly with mobility and manual work and to assist hospital carers in lifting patients -- detects muscle impulses to anticipate and support the user's .

A full-body model of HAL, being developed by Tsukuba University professor Yoshiyuki Sankai, assists both arms and legs, and allows users to carry a load of up to 70 kilograms (154 pounds) with one arm.

Uchida and a support team used an earlier version of the suit in an unsuccessful attempt to conquer the 4,164-metre (13,661-foot) Breithorn peak in Switzerland in 2006, when climbers wearing the robo-suits carried Uchida.

Uchida says he wants to visit the rocky tidal island of Mont Saint-Michel where a steep and narrow trail lead to an abbey and former fortress to "prove that it is possible for disabled people to visit the world's historic sites without relying on facilities like elevators," he said.

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not rated yet Sep 17, 2010
The days of anime robots are coming. lol.
not rated yet Sep 17, 2010
I wonder how much it costs? For an exoskeleton, that looks pretty damn good. It will do really well in japan.
not rated yet Sep 17, 2010
Unfortunately at the moment it costs a few million dollars, but hopefully it will come down to more realistic levels if it gets mass produced.
not rated yet Sep 17, 2010
"...amplifies the muscle power of its wearer's legs."

How exactly does that help a paraplegic with no leg function? I can see it being a help to the weak or elderly, but this doesn't sound like something that will get people out of their wheelchairs.
not rated yet Sep 17, 2010
The HAL suit also has a "Robotic Autonomous Control" mode that does not require nerve signals.
not rated yet Sep 22, 2010
I'm surprised they were able to trademark "robot suit"...
not rated yet Sep 25, 2010

Just a few days ago I saw on "That's Impossible" a very similar device being demonstrated by the U.S. military. One was a "legs only" exoskeleton, and one was full body.

The Legs only system allowed the wearer to carry hundreds of pounds over rugged terrain with little effort, with very much "normal" walking/hiking posture.

there are also lots of universities working on chip implants that enable people to control artificial limbs through their natural neural net in their brain learning to use the device as if it were their own natural limb.

So eventually exoskeletons might be very common with varying forms of interfaces.