Feeds

Aliens exoskeletons for Japanese old-timers

Wrinkly-minding droids to staff nursing homes in 20 years

The next step in data security

Designers in Japan have developed a working Aliens-style powered exoskeleton, and intend to market it next year.

The Japan Times reports that Yoshiyuki Sankai, a professor at the University of Tsukuba, has teamed up with Daiwa House Industry Co to manufacture "400 to 500 suits annually", from 2008.

The motorised exoskeleton, a little disappointingly, is not actually intended for space crews battling murderous acid-blooded interstellar monsters: nor even for mundane heavy-lifting tasks. Professor Sankai and his industry colleagues are looking more at the medical and elderly-care market. The exoskeleton is intended to enable people with walking difficulties to get about without assistance. A machine will apparently lease for 70,000 yen "plus maintenance fee", or just under £300 per month. More expensive than a Zimmer frame, then, but potentially a lot more fun.

According to the Japan Times, the suit doesn't necessarily require limb function to operate: it works by "reading signals from the brain", so even those with spinal problems could find it useful.

Prof Sankai's motor-muscle suit is just one of a range of automated technologies that the Japanese government wants to see implemented in coming years. The idea is that sophisticated robotic gear will look after the large numbers of old-timers expected to be inhabiting Japan soon.

The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation, a state-funded entity pushing such developments, wants to see a full range of robotised assistance options for the old. They'd like the gerontobotics gear available 20 years from now when the baby boom generation enter their 80s. This is to prevent the few remaining youngsters becoming overwhelmed by the demanding requirements of the burgeoning wrinkly hordes.

"We want to make it available when the aging of society becomes serious," an official told the Japan Times.

There are already, apparently, mechanical arms which will spoon up food when a switch is touched by a user's jaw; and computer human-interface kit operated by eyeball movements.

It remains to be seen just how kindly the ageing Japanese generation will take to robot nurses and motorised brain-reading walker machines. It's possible to speculate that a few testy curmudgeons at least will resist being handed over to the droids when they turn 80, obstinately beating off nurse-bots with old-school walking sticks and insisting on milky tea made by human hands. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.