Japanese companies are preparing for the commercial launch of a "robot suit" that helps aged or physically disabled people walk, get up the stairs or seat themselves to relax without a chair. Trading house Mitsui and Co. and some 30 other Tokyo firms plan to set up a joint-venture in April or May next year to market the powered suit developed by Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor and engineer at Tsukuba University. [...]
The powered suit, code-named HAL-3 (Hybrid Assistive Leg), consists of a computer and batteries in the backpack as well as four actuators attached around the knees and hip joints. The motor-powered devices guide movement of the legs as the computer calculates the user's next motion by detecting faint electric signals from the muscle, the professor said. With the equipment, the user can walk at a speed of four kilometres (2.5 miles) per hour with little physical exertion and avoid the jerky stop-go moves of ordinary robots. [...]
The new venture plans to lease or sell 10 prototypes next year, targetting hospitals and nursing-care facilities at home and abroad. A mid-term goal for the project is to sell some 100 suits a year at a price of one million yen (8,440 dollars).