In the science fiction movies Pacific Rim and Pacific Rim Uprising the heroes don 30-story exoskeletons to battle huge alien sea monsters. Although the clashes are impressive, real-life exoskeletons are beginning to make their own mark on the world.
Researchers from Japan-based Cyberdyne describe in the journal Science Robotics Medical HAL (Hybrid voluntary and autonomous control Assistive Limb), a neuro-controlled therapeutic exoskeletal cyborg-type robot designed to treat people with spinal cord injuries or neuromuscular problems caused by stroke or disease. The device, which emerged from cybernics — an interdisciplinary field fusing humans, robots, and information systems — can improve lives, not by killing monsters, but by helping people move their body and limbs in ways they were unable to before.
For instance, in a medical trial of 55 patients with a spinal cord injury, more than three quarters of them improved their ability to walk in a clinically meaningful way. In another study, patients with a rare progressive neuromuscular disease who could take only about ten steps when trying to walk were able to take between 500 and 2,000 steps while using Medical HAL.
“Unfortunately, in science fiction, these devices are only used for battle not for supporting humans or for treating patients,” Yoshiyuki Sankai, founder and CEO of Cyberdyne told Seeker.