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Powered robot suits make debut on Tokyo streets

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Vid Japanese scientists developing a powered exoskeletal suit intended for "heavy labour", "rescue support at disaster sites" and use by the disabled or elderly - not to mention applications in "the entertainment field" - have taken their equipment out for a test drive on the streets of Tokyo.

Here's a vid of the trial:

As can be seen, the "Hybrid Assistive Limb" (HAL) suit from Japanese firm Cyberdyne was deployed using only the leg sections, though the company is also working on full-body models. The assisted-walker jobs shown reportedly weigh 10kg including batteries, and are said to be of value in helping the injured or feeble get about. Cyberdyne will lease a set of robo-legs for 220k yen (£1360 at the moment) per month.

Cyberdyne founder Prof Yoshiyuki Sankai of the University of Tsukuba "Cybernics" lab sees many other applications for his equipment. He explains his thinking on the company site:

I had locked myself in my room, and carried out odd experiments day after day. My brain was swelling with knowledge... Human only gets older and weaker after they grow up, and it is unavoidable. To be able to live a meaningful remaining time depends on the existence of technologies... 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. That is what I am aiming for.

Prof Sankai's university lab is funded by the Japanese government. Boffins there are also working on a "Next generation type Continuous flow artificial Heart" and a "Humanoid Control Project... details are confidential. Sorry!" ®

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