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Robot suit offers glimmer of hope to the paralysed

Japan’s robot suit venture Cyberdyne president and Tsukuba University’s Yoshiyuki Sankai, a professor, have displayed the full-body HAL – Hybrid Assistive Limb – robotic exoskeleton.

This learns the user’s motion or gait and assists the wearer’s movement, said Prof. Sankai.

He said they have spent quite a few years developing HAL-5, the awesome robot suit that can make paralysed people walk. Its maker, Japan-based robot venture Cyberdyne, is now introducing a new version that is designed for people who suffer from muscle diseases and are in danger of losing their ability to walk.

The “conventional” HAL-5 robot suit helps paralysed persons walk (and lift heavy objects) by transforming brain signals sensed through the skin into motion. Cyberdyne has now modified the suit so that it can detect signals coming from extremely weak muscles, too.

According to a report in Japan’s biggest business daily The Nikkei, Cyberdyne plans to start clinical trials of the new robot suit in 2012. The studies will last until 2014 or 2015, with the company hoping it will slow down or even stop the diseases the wearers suffer from.

A total of five Japanese hospitals will take part in the trials.

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