The Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL, is a pair of power-assisted legs designed to support a user's body movements.
Sept. 26, 2012 --
Genetic mutations and advanced technology can give comic book characters super-human abilities. And the same holds true in real life. Sure, humans don't yet have the ability to shape-shift or walk through walls or, as is the case with Wolverine, heal in seconds from just about any injury. But there are a few other super powers that are within practical reach (and no shortage of people claiming to possess super powers). While you wait for "The Wolverine" to hit theaters, with a release date set for summer 2013, why not explore some examples of super human powers and abilities in the real world?
Courtesy of University of Utah Department of
Mindreading Charles Xavier, the leader of the X-Men, has the ability to read minds. While no human has so far demonstrably proven this ability, we have developed technology that could read minds. This mind-reading device was developed by researchers at the University of Utah to help speechless patients form words. Words can be read directly from patients' minds by attaching microelectrode grids to the surface of the brain and learning which signals mean which words, a development that will ultimately help such patients talk again.
Magnetism He's no Magneto, but according to his father, Bogdan, a 7-year-old Serbian boy, has the ability to attract metal objects to him. In fact, his "magnetism" appears to extend to non-metal objects as well. Of course, Bogdan's magnetism hasn't yet been scientifically proven. In fact, it's most likely that he's just a little overweight and oils in his skin make him sticky.
Teleportation Azazel, one of the antagonists in "X-Men: First Class," has the ability to teleport himself and others from one place to another. In reality, we haven't come close to that level of transport ability. However, scientists have successfully teleported light and data over a stretch of 10 miles.
Flight Flying is certainly the ultimate superpower. But until a radioactive pigeon bites you, we'll all just have to rely on technology to get us airborne. Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy has taken solo flight to the extreme with his custom-designed wingsuit. Recently, Rossy even took his jetpack for a spin over the Grand Canyon. Reaching speeds of 190 miles per hour, this jetman could keep up with some of the fastest fictional fliers.
Muscle Mass You wouldn't want to see this dog when she gets angry. Wendy may look like a pitbull but is in fact a whippet with a rare genetic mutation that makes this dog more muscular. Although this dog is gifted with twice the muscle mass as average-sized whippets, Wendy has the same size heart, lungs and other organs.
Courtesy Raytheon Company
Iron Man OK, Tony Stark may be from a different franchise, but his Iron Man suit has become inspiration for military and tech manufacturers testing their own brands of exoskeleton suits. These real-life iron man suits have been designed for applications as mundane as climbing up a flight of stairs and as complex as protecting a soldier on a battlefield.
Echolocation Like the superhero Daredevil, Ben Underwood "sees" with his ears rather than his eyes by employing sonar. By emitting clicking noises with the back of his tongue, Kish is able to determine the distance and a rough outline of the shape of a nearby object. This allows him to navigate without the aid of a cane or seeing eye dog. Other blind people have also developed this ability, so this technique is not unique to Kish.
Soothsaying No one person can predict the future, but a recently developed software program used in Baltimore and Philadelphia is predicting which individuals on probation or parole are most likely to murder and to be murdered. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. are using or planning on using the program, and the software has already helped reduce the murder rate in some police districts.
A robot suit that can help the elderly or disabled get around was given its global safety certificate in Japan on Wednesday, paving the way for its worldwide roll-out.
The Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL, is a power-assisted pair of legs developed by Japanese robot maker Cyberdyne, which has also developed similar robot arms.
A quality assurance body issued the certificate based on a draft version of an international safety standard for personal robots that is expected to be approved later this year, the ministry for the economy, trade and industry said.
The metal-and-plastic exoskeleton has become the first nursing-care robot certified under the draft standard, a ministry official said.
Battery-powered HAL, which detects muscle impulses to anticipate and support the user's body movements, is designed to help the elderly with mobility or help hospital or nursing carers to lift patients.
Cyberdyne, based in Tsukuba, northeast of Tokyo, has so far leased some 330 suits to 150 hospitals, welfare and other facilities in Japan since 2010, at 178,000 yen ($1,950) per suit per year.
"It is very significant that Japan has obtained this certification before others in the world," said Yoshiyuki Sankai, the head of Cyberdyne.
The company is unrelated to the firm of the same name responsible for the cyborg assassin played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1984 film "The Terminator."
"This is a first step forward for Japan, the great robot nation, to send our message to the world about robots of the future," said Sankai, who is also a professor at Tsukuba University.
A different version of HAL -- coincidentally the name of the evil supercomputer in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- has been developed for workers who need to wear heavy radiation protection as part of the clean-up at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
Industrial robots have long been used in Japan, and robo-suits are gradually making inroads into hospitals and retirement homes.
But critics say the government has been slow in creating a safety framework for such robots in a country whose rapidly aging population is expected to enjoy ever longer lives.