Robot suit offers hope for nuclear work
Researchers showed off the latest incarnation of HAL, the Hybrid Assistive Limb, a full body suit that could eventually be used by workers dismantling the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
HAL -- coincidentally the name of the evil supercomputer in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- has a network of sensors that monitor the electric signals coming from the wearer's brain.
It uses these to activate the robot's limbs in concert with the worker's, taking weight off his or her muscles.
Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor of engineering at the University of Tsukuba, said this means the 60-kilogramme (130-pound) tungsten vest workers at Fukushima have to wear is almost unnoticeable.
He said the outer layer of the robot suit also blocks radiation, while fans inside it circulate air to keep the wearer cool, and a computer can monitor their heart-rate and breathing for signs of fatigue.