This week Cyberdyne unveiled a robotic exoskeleton called HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) that allows its wearer to carry superhuman loads while shielding them from radiation. With the Fukushima nuclear disaster still fresh in Japan’s national memory, the research team designed HAL to aid workers in dismantling the damaged power plant. The most incredible part is that the suit can be controlled by brainwaves! A network of sensors monitors electric signals coming from the user’s brain and uses them to activate the robot’s limbs in unison with the worker’s, allowing them to move without supporting the suit’s weight. As such, the 130-pound suit is barely noticeable to those wearing it.
Cyberdyne’s HAL suit was unveiled this week at the Japan Robot Week exhibition in Tokyo. Speaking at the exhibition, Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor of engineering at the University of Tsukuba, said that HAL’s outer layer blocks damaging radiation, while fans inside the suit circulate air to keep the wearer cool. A computer monitors the user’s heart-rate and breathing at all times for signs of fatigue.
Inventor Eiji Koyanagi of the Chiba Institute of Technology said the suits would be deployed very close to the damaged reactor core at Fukushima. “We have to think of ways to protect nuclear workers, otherwise Fukushima won’t be sorted out,” he said.
The only worrying details are the name of the suit and the company behind it. After all, HAL was the robot that went crazy in 2001: A Space Odyssey, while the Japanese company that designed the exoskeleton is called Cyberdyne, which is the name of the company that created the lethal Terminator in the film of the same name. Yikes.