Japan robot suit offers hope for nuclear work

October 18, 2012
A robot suit entitled HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) is displayed at the Japan Robot Week exhibition in Tokyo. The brain wave-controlled robot suits that allow wearers to don heavy radiation protection without feeling the weight were unveiled in Japan.

Brain wave-controlled robot suits that allow wearers to don heavy radiation protection without feeling the weight were unveiled in Japan on Thursday.

Researchers showed off the latest incarnation of HAL, the , a full body suit that could eventually be used by workers dismantling the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

HAL—coincidentally the name of the evil supercomputer in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey"—has a network of sensors that monitor the coming from the wearer's brain.

It uses these to activate the robot's limbs in concert with the worker's, taking weight off his or her muscles.

Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor of engineering at the University of Tsukuba, said this means the 60-kilogramme (130-pound) tungsten vest workers at Fukushima have to wear is almost unnoticeable.

He said the outer layer of the also blocks radiation, while fans inside it circulate air to keep the wearer cool, and a computer can monitor their heart-rate and breathing for signs of fatigue.

The robot is manufactured by Cyberdyne, a company unrelated to the fictional firm responsible for the Terminator in the 1984 film of the same name.

HAL was on display as part of Japan Robot Week, which also featured small robots that run on caterpillar tracks designed to move across difficult terrain and gather information in places where it is not safe for humans.

Inventor Eiji Koyanagi of the Chiba Institute of Technology said the devices could be deployed very close to the damaged at Fukushima.

"We have to think of ways to protect nuclear workers, otherwise Fukushima won't be sorted out," he said.

A huge tsunami in March 2011 smashed into the power plant, sparking meltdowns that forced the evacuation of a huge area of northeastern Japan.

The decommissioning of the crippled plant is expected to take several decades.

Explore further: Japan firm unveils robot suit for nuclear workers

Related Stories

Japan firm unveils robot suit for nuclear workers

November 7, 2011

The Japanese maker of an exoskeleton robot suit to assist walking on Monday unveiled a model that could help nuclear workers weighed down by heavy anti-radiation vests in contaminated zones.

Honda plans nuclear mission for robot

August 12, 2011

Japan's Honda is hoping to retool its humanoid robot ASIMO for a nuclear mission so it can join emergency work inside the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, a press report said Friday.

Record radiation levels detected at Fukushima reactor

June 27, 2012

TEPCO, the operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, said Wednesday record amounts of radiation had been detected in the basement of reactor number 1, further hampering clean-up operations.

Nuclear contamination found beyond Japan no-go zone

October 5, 2011

High levels of radioactive contamination have been found in soil in the capital of Japan's Fukushima prefecture, a study showed Wednesday, prompting calls to make the area a voluntary evacuation zone.

Japan's robot suit to bring hope to the disabled

December 12, 2010

Japan's Cyberdyne may share its name with the company responsible for nuclear destruction and the killer robots of the "Terminator" movie series, but the similarities end there.

Japan says plant clean-up will take decades

July 9, 2011

Japan's prime minister said on Saturday the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant would take decades, in the first government announcement of a long-term timeframe for the clean-up.

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.