Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wasn’t it Ken Richardson who said that innovation was the ultimate practical application of the imagination? Two Japanese hikers, one paralyzed from the neck down, made it to within 500 yards of the summit of 13,741ft Breithorn mountain in Switzerland. Normally, this would not be a great story of the power of personal will in overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. But what makes this story special is the team’s use of a robotic exoskeleton. With the aid of the HAL or hybrid assistive limb robotic suit developed by Cyberdyne of Japan (talk about irony) the two-man team was able to make the trek up the mountain “piggy-back” style. With use of the HAL suit, a person normally able to lift 220 lbs on a leg press can lift an amazing 396 lbs. This is an 80% increase if lifting capacity. More on this story can be found here.

Below is a mark-up of the HAL-3 assistive suit.