The Hybrid Assistive Limb, which is also known affectionately as HAL, is the creative brainchild of Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai, a professor at the University of Tsukuba.
The first HAL was developed in the early 2000s and was attached to a computer. The robot suit was cumbersome and impractical because the battery alone weighed nearly 22 kilograms (48.5 pounds) and required two people to attach it.
After much trial and error, the recently developed HAL-5 weighs only 10 kg (22 pounds).
Professor Sankai, under the patronage of Cyberdyne, has developed the latest HAL suit to insure the safety of nuclear power-plant workers at Fukushima in carrying the extremely heavy tungsten plates that can act as a barrier against high levels of radiation.
HAL is considered the latest step in a new academic field dubbed cybernics.
“Humans can feel discomfort when the ‘robot suit’ is added to the body as it acts as a sensor, and also as equipment to control the whole body … I strongly felt the need of an academic system that includes a number of fields combined. I have named and established this academic system ‘cybernics’… to exploit the future by a hearty science technology,” said Sankai.
According to Cyberdyne, this latest and most streamlined HAL robot suit supports the weight of the prohibitively heavy protective clothing and enables workers to do their jobs more effectively as they are not constantly fighting the burden of their protective armor.
This marks a tremendous breakthrough in “defensive” clothing. Previously, robot suits worn at radiation sites were effective against only the weakest types of radiation. The reason for this concerns the weight required to actually stop hard radiation.
Before this new HAL, the usual method of dealing with high radiation levels was to enter such areas only briefly in order to remain below dosage levels that were considered unsafe.
So far, HAL has not been utilized at the Fukushima site, as the current method of simply keeping workers out of highly radioactive areas has worked well to date.
But Sankai is not a man who gives up easily. His endless vision demands an expansion of the human mind to develop new technologies to insure a meaningful life for all.
Here’s to his amazing mind and the new HAL.