A man wearing a 2005 prototype version of the HAL suit (left).
|Year of creation||1997 (earliest prototype)
2012 (full HAL-5 suit)
|Purpose||Medical / search and rescue|
The Hybrid Assistive Limb (also known as HAL) is a powered exoskeleton suit developed by Japan's Tsukuba University and the robotics company Cyberdyne. It has been designed to support and expand the physical capabilities of its users, particularly people with physical disabilities. There are two primary versions of the system: HAL 3, which only provides leg function, and HAL 5, which is a full-body exoskeleton for the arms, legs, and torso.
In 2011, Cyberdyne and Tsukuba University jointly announced that hospital trials of the full HAL suit would begin in 2012, with tests to continue until 2014 or 2015. By October 2012, HAL suits were in use by 130 different medical institutions across Japan. In February 2013, the HAL system became the first powered exoskeleton to receive global safety certification. In August 2013, HAL received EC certification for clinical use in Europe as the world's first non-surgical medical treatment robot. In addition to its medical applications, the HAL exoskeleton has been used in construction and disaster response work.
The first HAL prototype was proposed by Yoshiyuki Sankai, a professor at Tsukuba University. Fascinated with robots since he was in the third grade, Sankai had striven to make a robotic suit in order “to support humans.” In 1989, after receiving his Ph.D. in robotics, he began the development of HAL. Sankai spent three years, from 1990 to 1993, mapping out the neurons that govern leg movement. It took him and his team an additional four years to make a prototype of the hardware.
The third HAL prototype, developed in the early 2000s, was attached to a computer. Its battery alone weighed nearly 22 kilograms (49 lb) and required two helpers to put on, making it very impractical. By contrast, later HAL-5 model weighs only 10 kilograms (22 lb) and has its battery and control computer strapped around the waist of the wearer.
Cyberdyne began renting the HAL suit out for medical purposes in 2008. By October 2012, over 300 HAL suits were in use by 130 medical facilities and nursing homes across Japan. The suit is available for institutional rental, in Japan only, for a monthly fee of US$2,000. In December 2012, Cyberdyne was certified ISO 13485 – an international quality standard for design and manufacture of medical devices – by Underwriters Laboratories. In late February 2013, the HAL suit received a global safety certificate, becoming the first powered exoskeleton to do so. In August 2013, the suit received an EC certificate, permitting its use for medical purposes in Europe as the first medical treatment robot of its kind.
Design and mechanics
When a person attempts to move their body, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles through the motor neurons, moving the musculoskeletal system. When this happens, small biosignals can be detected on the surface of the skin. The HAL suit registers these signals through a sensor attached to the skin of the wearer. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit moves the joint to support and amplify the wearer's motion. The HAL suit possesses a cybernic control system consisting of both a user-activated “voluntary control system" known as Cybernic Voluntary Control (CVC) and a “robotic autonomous control system" known as Cybernic Autonomous Control (CAC) for automatic motion support.
HAL is designed to assist the disabled and elderly in their daily tasks, but can also be used to support workers with physically demanding jobs such as disaster rescue or construction. HAL is mainly used by disabled patients in hospitals, and can be modified so that patients can use it for longer-term rehabilitation. In addition, scientific studies have shown that, in combination with specially-created therapeutic games, powered exoskeletons like the HAL-5 can stimulate cognitive activities and help disabled children walk while playing. Further scientific studies have shown that HAL Therapy can be effectively used for rehabilitation after spinal cord injury or stroke.
During the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, it was announced that the United States government had expressed interest in purchasing HAL suits. In March 2011, Cyberdyne presented a legs-only HAL version for the disabled, health care professionals and factory workers. In November 2011, HAL was selected to be used for cleanup work at the site of the Fukushima nuclear accident. During the Japan Robot Week exhibition in Tokyo in October 2012, a redesigned version of HAL was presented, designed specifically for the Fukushima cleanup. In March 2013, ten Japanese hospitals conducted clinical tests of the newer legs-only HAL system. In late 2014, HAL exoskeletons modified for construction use entered service with the Japanese construction contractor Obayashi Corporation.
- Atlas (robot), a humanoid robot designed for search and rescue
- Ekso Bionics
- Vanderbilt exoskeleton
- "Robot suit offers glimmer of hope to the paralysed". Times of Malta. 11 March 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- "Robots to the rescue as an aging Japan looks for help". The Australian. 13 October 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- "Japan robot suit gets global safety certificate". AFP via Google. 27 February 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "TÜV Rheinland Issues EC certificate for Cyberdyne's Medical Robot Suit HAL®". TÜV Rheinland. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
- "Global Companies from Japan". Weekly Toyo Keizai. 14 September 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Smart walkers lead the way for Japanese elder-care robots". ITWorld.com. 16 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
- "New HAL Exoskeleton: Brain-Controlled Full Body Suit to Be Used In Fukushima Cleanup". Neurogadget.com. 18 October 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
- "Cyberdyne power suit". YouTube. 31 July 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- "HAL, a friend for people with disabilities". Nipponia. Web Japan. 15 September 2006. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- "The design, manufacture and servicing of wearable lower limb exoskeleton devices for rehabilitation and physical training" (pdf). Underwriters Laboratories. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- "Intention-based walking support for paraplegia patients with Robot Suit HAL". Advanced Robotics. 2007, vol. 21, pp1441-1469. Taylor & Francis. 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Pilot study of locomotion improvement using hybrid assistive limb in chronic stroke patients". BMC Neurology. 2013, vol. 13, p141. BMC. 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Research Program Cybernics University of Tsukuba". Global COE Program, Cybernics. University of Tsukuba. 1 April 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Computers for the Development of Young Disabled Children – Introduction to the Special Thematic Session". ACM.org. 2002. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
- "Influence of Virtual Reality Soccer Game on Walking Performance in Robotic Assisted Gait Training for Children". AbleData.com. April 2010. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
- "Current scientific studies to exoskeleton therapy with Hybrid Assistive Limb". WALK AGAIN Center. Retrieved 2016-01-28.
- "CES Spotlight: Japanese Robot Exoskeletons". 12 January 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "Cyberdyne demos lower-body HAL exoskeleton for helping the disabled, not eradicating mankind (video)". 15 March 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "Robotic Exoskeletons from Cyberdyne Could Help Workers Clean Up Fukushima Nuclear Mess". Scientific American. 9 November 2011. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
- "Hospitals to test robot suit to help patients walk". The Asahi Shimbun. 9 February 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2013.