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Prophecy Update……May 8, 2008 Keeping You Informed of World ...

Prophecy Update……May 8, 2008 Keeping You Informed of World ...

Real-Life Iron Man:

Real-Life Iron Man: Company looking to mass produce robotic power suitsThe prospect of slipping into a robotic exoskeleton that could enhance strength, keep thebody active while recovering from an injury or even serve as a prosthetic limb has greatappeal. Unlike the svelt body armor donned by Iron Man, however, most exoskeletons todate have looked more like clunky spare parts cobbled together.Japan's CYBERDYNE, Inc. is hoping to change that with a sleek, white exoskeleton now inthe works that it says can augment the body's own strength or do the work of ailing (ormissing) limbs. The company is confident enough in its new technology to have startedconstruction on a new lab expected to mass-produce up to 500 robotic power suits (thinkStar Wars storm trooper without the helmet) annually, beginning in October, according toJapan's Kyodo News Web site.CYBERDYNE was launched in June 2004 to commercialize the cybernetic work of a group ofresearchers headed by Yoshiyuki Sankai a professor of system and information engineeringat Japan's University of Tsukuba. Its newest product: the Robot Suit Hybrid Assistive Limb(HAL) exoskeleton, which the company created to help train doctors and physical therapists,assist disabled people, allow laborers to carry heavier loads, and aid in emergency rescues.A prototype of the exoskeleton suit is designed for the small in stature, standing five feet,three inches (1.6 meters) tall. The suit weighs 50.7 pounds (23 kilograms) and is poweredby a 100-volt AC battery (that lasts up to five hours, depending upon how much energy thesuit exerts). By way of comparison, a lower-body exoskeleton developed by theMassachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab's Biomechatronics Group is powered by a48-volt battery pack and weighs about 26 pounds (11.8 kilograms).CYBERDYNE (which film buffs will recognize as the name of the company that built theill-fated "Skynet" in the Terminator movies) designed the HAL exoskeleton primarily toenhance the wearer's existing physical capabilities 10-fold. The exoskeleton detects—via asensor attached to the wearer's skin—brain signals sent to muscles to get them moving. Theexoskeleton's computer analyzes these signals to determine how it must move (and withhow much force) to assist the wearer. The company claims on its Web site that the devicecan also operate autonomously (based on data stored in its computer), which is key whenused by people suffering spinal cord injuries or physical disabilities resulting from strokes orother disorders.The HAL exoskeleton is currently only available in Japan, but the company says it has plansto eventually offer it in the European Union as well. The company will rent (no option to buyat this time) the suits for about $1,300 per month (including maintenance and upgrades),according to the company's site, which also says that rental fees will vary: Health carefacilities and other businesses renting the suits will pay about three times as much asindividuals. The site does not explain why, and the company could not be reached forcomment.CYBERDYNE is not the only company developing exoskeleton technology. The U.S. Army is

in the very early stages of testing an aluminum exoskeleton created by Sarcos, a Salt LakeCity robotics and medical device manufacturer (and a division of defense contractorRaytheon), to improve soldiers' strength and endurance. The exoskeleton is made of acombination of sensors, actuators and controllers, and can help the wearer lift 200 poundsseveral hundred times without tiring, the company said Wednesday in a press release. Thecompany also claims the suit is agile enough to play soccer and climb stairs and ramps.But there are still many kinks that must be worked out before HAL or any other exoskeletonbecome part of everyday life. Exoskeletons work in parallel with human muscles, serving asan artificial system that helps the body overcome inertia and gravity, says Hugh Herr,principal investigator for M.I.T.'s Biomechatronics Group, which is developing a light,low-power exoskeleton that straps to a person's waist, legs and feet. Wearers' feet go intoboots attached to a series of metal tubes that run up a leg to a backpack. The devicetransfers the backpack's payload from the back of the wearer to the ground.One of the difficulties in developing exoskeletons for health care is the diversity of medicalneeds they must meet. "One might have knee and ankle problems, others might have elbowproblems," Herr says. "How in the world do you build a wearable robot that accommodatesa lot of people?"There are also concerns about the exoskeleton discouraging rehabilitation by doing all of thework of damaged limbs that might benefit from even limited use. "If the orthotic doeseverything," Herr says, "the muscle degrades, so you want the orthotic to do just the rightamount of work."Power efficiency could also become an issue, given that the HAL moves thanks to a numberof electric motors placed throughout the exoskeleton. The problem with electrical power isthat you have to recharge, says Ray Baughman, professor of chemistry and director of theUniversity of Texas at Dallas's NanoTech Institute. Baughman and his colleagues have beendeveloping substances that serve as artificial muscles (by converting chemical energy intoelectrical energy) that may someday be able to move prosthetic limbs and robot parts. Theirgoal is to avoid the downtime inherent in motor-powered prosthetics that must berecharged.Makes you appreciate Iron Man's strength and agility all the more.Robobug goes to war: Troops to use electronic insects to spot enemy 'by end ofthe year'It may have seemed like just another improbable scene from a Hollywood sci-fi flick – TomCruise battling against an army of robotic spiders intent on hunting him down.But the storyline from Minority Report may not be quite as far fetched as it sounds.British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and

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INFORMATION SHEET #8 – May 10-11, 2008
Starting May 7 – 8 Weeks to a Better You!