Japanese ‘robotic clothes’ may help disabled to move

A JAPANESE robotics company has unveiled a suit designed to help people with mobility problems.

Cyberdyne’s HAL (hybrid assistive limb) is equipped with sensors that read brain signals directing limb movement through the skin.

“HAL is to help people with weak leg muscles and mobility problems... We wanted to show HAL is very useful for our daily life,” said a company spokesman.

Belted to the waist, HAL relays brain signals to mechanical leg braces strapped to the thighs and knees, which then provide robotic assistance to people with weak limbs.

HAL comes in three sizes – small, medium and large – and has a one-leg version. Cyberdyne said the US and some European nations have expressed interest. HAL may have far-reaching benefits for the disabled and elderly. Japan is grappling with a rapidly ageing society. About a fifth of the population of 128 million is 65 or older, and that figure is expected to double in the next 30 years.

Employees have been showing off the suit. Wearing HAL, three people took an hour-long train ride from Tsukuba, north of the Japanese capital, to Tokyo.

The company declined to say how much it cost to manufacture HAL.

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