Saturday 21 February 2009

HAL 5 or Hybrid Assistive Limb 5

is a robot suit (or artificial powered exoskeleton) developed by Yoshiyuki Sankai who is the professor of Tsukuba, University of Japan.

HAL 5 is currently capable of allowing the operator to lift and carry nearly twice as much weight as they could lift and carry unaided. HAL is worn over the wearers arms and legs, and uses eight motors attached to shoulders, elbows, knees and waist to control movements.

"When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via motoneuron, moving the musculoskeletal system as a consequence. At this moment, very weak biosignals can be detected on the surface of the skin. HAL catches these signals through a sensor attached on the skin of the wearer. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit is controlled to move the joint unitedly with the wearer's muscle movement, enabling to support the wearer's daily activities. 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. 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."

The US military have been working on an exoskeleton for soldiers in the field to help them carry more equipment as seen here and here. But the Japanese developers are looking to use these suits in the assistance of the disabled and elderly. There is also a need for them in heavy labour support at factories, and rescue support at disaster sites.

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