Telegraph UK – A robotic suit originally designed to help elderly people walk has been upgraded to assist emergency teams working in the difficult conditions at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The Hybrid Assistive Limb – or HAL – was first unveiled by scientists at The Tokyo University of Agriculture in 2009. Fitted with motors at the key joints – the lower back, knees, elbows and shoulders – the suit is worn as an external skeleton and works in tandem with the wearer to provide him with additional strength.
The robotic suit gives the wearer double his natural strength.
The outfits have since been developed by Cyberdyne, which on Monday demonstrated a unit designed to be worn by emergency teams operating close to the damaged reactors who have to wear anti-radiation tungsten vests that can weigh up to 60kg (132lb).
Workers at the plant have found it difficult to operate for long periods of time while wearing full protective equipment, particularly in the heat of the summer months.
“This new type of HAL robot suit supports the weight of protective clothing made of tungsten and enables the wearer to work on the site without feeling the burden,” the company said in a statement. “It is hoped this will reduce the risks of working in harsh environments and contribute to the early restoration of operations by humans in the wake of disasters.”