In January we mentioned something called the Hybrid Assistive Limb, called HAL, showing at this year’s Consumer Electronic’s Show. It was actually invented by a super-skilled Japanese robotics engineer named Yoshiyuki Sankai (山海嘉之教授 in Japanese).
As you may know, the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan did great damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, so much so that the site now has radiation levels considered “fatal to humans.” No bueno. Or rather, 大変ですねぇ。
But Japan, resourceful and tenacious as ever, has been making do with 130 pound tungsten suits and short clean-up shifts to work at salvaging the site.
Your average person might be cool with this, since the place is at least being cleaned up, but Sankai is an engineer. He probably decided that wearing a 130 pound suit kind of sucks. So through his Japanese venture business called Cyberdine he unveiled a new version of HAL (article in Japanese) which supports the anti-radiation suits with an exoskeleton. And it’s brain-operated. It’s also cool to note that the venture business is comprised of Tsukuba University professors. And what kind of professors do you think they are?
Engineering? You might be right. In fact, Sankai is the Tsukuba University professor of engineering.
Sankai said that “it is hoped that this will reduce risks of working under harsh environments and contribute to early restoration operations by humans in the wake of disasters.” Sounds like he’s doing his job of decreasing the suck. And as a bonus, robots are pretty awesome in and of themselves. Check out this video of Professor Sankai explaining HAL. Imagine using it to support a tungsten anti-rad suit.
- Yahoo News: “Japan Invents a Cyborg Suit to Clean Up Fukushima.”
- Yahoo.jp news article: “A ‘robot suit’ for nuclear power plant work.” (Japanese)
- Cyberdine, Inc. webpage on Robot-Suit HAL.
- Professor Sankai’s cybernetics group website. (Japanese)