I, for one, welcome our new powered-exoskeleton geriatric overlords

Robots to offer Japan's elderly new lease on life

A graduate student wearing the robot suit "Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) 5," developed by professor Yoshiyuki Sankai, easily holds three packs of rice during a test at Tsukuba Industrial Liaison Corp. Research Center at the University of Tsukuba, northeast of Tokyo, June 24. The robotic suit can give an average man twice his usual strength and was developed to assist the elderly in their everyday lives.
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35 Responses:

  1. jerronimo says:

    neat idea, but man... if the suit loses power while you're carrying something heavy, you're screwed.

    • jonabbey says:

      One thing to worry about is encouraging muscle atrophy by actually taking the entire load off of the muscles, as splints might. In that picture, I can't tell whether he's having to use any arm muscles at all to maintain that load, or whether his arms are just resting limp on the exosuit.

      A number of fancy ergonomic keyboarding devices (Datahand, etc.) could get you into trouble that way, if you weren't careful.

    • sheepthief says:

      "Your suit has performed an illegal operation. Press ctrl-alt-delete to continue"

  2. usufructer says:

    It would still be more impressive if they actually did something that a guy couldn't do by himself.

  3. justmealex says:

    Three packs of rice doesn't seem so tough, but he is a rather small lad...

    • gen_witt says:

      And here I was thinking those were pillows.

    • quercus says:

      10kg rice bags - that's 66lbs in 'merkin, so it's not insignificant.

      Muscle atrophy is one risk, but you can also set these things up as an isometric workout. They could be as much an exercise machine as an ass-kicking mech for grannie. You could even build in slendertone pads and some dynamic resistance.

  4. ioerror says:

    I can't wait for the bionic or machine assisted extreme wrestling at the dna.

    • There is, no doubt, a license that the SF police require for such activities. (Probably in addition to "live performance," "physical competition," and potentially the standard noise abatement stuff.)

  5. dnl2ba says:

    You know, I saw that, and I knew it was just a matter of time before you posted it.

    • lroberson says:

      ..... if the elderly can actually manage their bodies INTO the thing. My aunt has a hard enough time getting her jacket-sweater on.

  6. waywind says:

    Why oh why did they have to name it HAL?

  7. billemon says:

    Did no one else have Dark Angel flashbacks?

  8. ciphergoth says:

    In Japan, only old people wear powered suits. </slashdot>

  9. xenogram says:

    Isn't he a little short for a stormtrooper?

  10. airmax says:

    detects and empowers slight muscle impulses, then what fun could this be when oldman had a tremor or such. Their do continue being old, don't they? Just imagine a robot crawling slowly with a elderly walk and shaking its hands over and there. Or yeah, anti-tremor HAL patch (tm) shouldn't be late to market! And also, an homeback autopilot (tm) for those who fall asleep, got mind stuck or accidentally died during walking.

    • phoenixredux says:

      That's a good idea. It might be handy to have some sort of medical alert system built into it for the old people. Sort of like OnStar meets HomeAlert (remember: "I've fallen, and I can't get up!)

      I wonder where this technology will be in 50 years or so when we're in need of it. This could be awesome. I might finally be able to be really spectacular on rollerblades.

      • airmax says:

        50 years is way too optimistic to beleive this world will live for.

        • phoenixredux says:

          Oh, don't worry. Even if we screw up the environment and totally vent our atmosphere into space or nuke the Earth to kingdom come, the planet itself will go on without us. It's done just fine without the dinosaurs, hasn't it?

          • airmax says:

            dinosaurs hadn't had thermonuclear reactors, one that would be build nearest 20 years should have a power to drill a hole in mars if explodes accidentally. so even if chinese/yankees will conquer mars in 10 years, they wouldn't survive anyway. fucking depression. but guess that'll be very big boom, whoa, think positive.

    • jkonrath says:

      I rode (tried to ride) a Segway once, and if you don't know what you're doing, it can go into this low-speed feedback loop where your body tries to "catch" itself and it makes the motion worse, so you move the opposite way, and so on. When it happened to me, that's exactly what I thought of - someone with some kind of tremor, having the movement greatly magnified.

  11. dossy says:

    How long until we have real mecha-ninjas. Fear those zany Japanese ...

  12. louiswu says:

    Only 8995 more HALs to go.

  13. I can't wait to sploit the bluetooth on that.

  14. chuck_lw says:

    I'm adding you because a few searches have indicated your journal is an excellent clearinghouse on welcoming new robotic overlords.

    My fictional characters have differing opinions on the new robot overlords, but that's to be expected.

  15. cranaic says:

    Yoshiyuki's assistant was found buried a live in bags of rice, and Yoshiyuki was seen scaling a nearby office building while cackling loudly, a strange gleam in his eyes . . .