Germany may be about to get some new robots, courtesy of Cyberdyne Inc., a Japan-based robotics company developing mind-controlled exoskeletons for medical use, rescue support, manual labor and entertainment.
Parallels to the Terminator movies aside, the robotic technology has left a fairly hefty footprint in Japan in a short amount of time, suggesting a potentially similar market abroad.
The Robot Suit HAL (hybrid assistive limb) is described by the company as "a cyborg-type robot that can supplement, expand or improve physical capability." The device non-invasively captures nerve signals by detecting them on the skin as the brain transmit signals to the muscles of the body.
HAL captures those signals and translates them into machine language, moving the limbs of the robot in concert with the wearers own movements.
"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," according to the company’s website. "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 only such robot to combine both human-motivated and machine-automated movement, Cyberdyne said. The suit features a battery drive that can operate for about 2 hours and 40 minutes at full charge, and the body is designed to accommodate motions such as standing, sitting, walking, carrying heavy objects and climbing up and down stairs.
The suit is already available for rent or lease in Japan, either in bipedal or single-leg configurations, and the device comes in a few sizes that can be adjusted to individual wearers. Only medical or welfare facilities are eligible to rent the systems. There are already more than 330 HAL suits in operation across Japan, according to Medical Daily.
The European safety certification was granted by the TUV Rheinland agency in Germany, giving the device marketing approval for that country. Cyberdyne is planning to seek reimbursement approval in the European Union, where it has been granted approval to begin clinical trials, according to Nikkei.com.