It's a exosuit that gives the wearer literally 10x average human strength. And it's developed enough that it's in mass production. Bit by bit and piece by piece, sci-fi is slowly making its way into the realm of what's real.
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What's blue and white and has the strength of superhero? The answer, will soon be a human sporting a Cyberdyne Corporation suit. While the name of this Japanese firm, taken from the evil corporation in the movie Terminator, may make some a bit uneasy, its hard to fault its dream -- bringing to life the dreams of mech suits that military and fictional minds have had for decades.
Cyberdyne has partnered with Daiwa House to finally bring its HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) suit into mass production. The company plans on offering 400 of the units, which are expected to be in short supply, to private and government buyers, at a cost of $4,200 for the suit.
The suit is truly revolutionary in that its the first publicly offered suit to increase the strength of both arms and legs to superhuman levels -- over ten times the strength of an average human. The suit has special pads which attach to muscles and detect electrical signals form the brain. As the muscle moves, so does the suit, augmenting the power of movements. Special care is taken to respect the range of motion and not go too fast, so as not to damage delicate tendons, ligaments, and bones.
In short, the new suit allows an average human to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. Cyberdyne describes its revolutionary product, stating:
When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via motoneuron, moving the musculoskeletal system as a consequence. At this moment, very weak biosignals can be detected on the surface of the skin. HAL catches these signals through a sensor attached on the skin of the wearer. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit is controlled to wearer’s daily activities.
Demand for the new suit is expected to be huge. From disaster relief and industrial construction, to military applications, there are many potential uses. Perhaps the most valuable one is that the suit will allow the elderly or disabled to perform activities that they previously could not, by granting them normal strength and then some.
While the HAL suit is certainly impressive, it's even more fun to dream about what can come next. With so much promise from the first model alone, it should be great to see what future models can accomplish -- longer autonomous battery life, more power, and possibly upgrades for military applications. The HAL is one of those kinds of inventions that reminds you that the future is here, and is knocking on your door.