‘HAL’ exoskeleton by cyberdyne

at CES 2011, japan-based cyberdyne offered some of the first public demos of its ‘HAL‘ (‘hybrid assistive limb’) exoskeleton.

the device involves two systems: a ‘voluntary control system’ that interprets the wearer’s intended actions, and a ‘robotic autonomous control system’ that actually enacts physical movement.

CES 2011: cyberdyne's HAL exoskeleton left: ‘HAL’ interprets user’s brain signals and works with user’s movements to assist in daily activities (image courtesy of dvice) right: a 2009 prototype is tested on the streets of tokyo (image courtesy of allaboutz)

when a person attempts physical activity, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles. ‘HAL’ works by picking up on the bioelectric signals that appear on the surface of the skin as a result of this process. an internal computer analyzes the intended force of the action and calculates the amount of power that will be needed to assist the user.

the ‘robotic autonomous control system’ then generates the appropriate movement of the device’s limbs. the entire process completes a fraction of a second earlier than the user’s muscles actually move, so that human and machine are working in sync.

CES 2011: cyberdyne's HAL exoskeleton concept diagram of the functioning of ‘HAL’ brain signals sent to muscles are picked up by the system, which then calculates the proper force to assist motion

currently ‘HAL’ is capable of helping individuals stand up from a chair, walk, climb up and down stairs, and hold or lift objects.

the company is planning to begin production with 400 exoskeletons a year, released first to japan and then the rest of the world.

‘HAL’ is demoed at CES2011