HAL [Hybrid Assistive Limb] is the world‘s first cyborg-type robot, by which a wearer‘s bodily functions can be improved, supported and enhanced.
Wearing of HAL leads to a fusion of “man”, “machine” and “information”. HAL assists a physically challenged person to move and enables him or her to exert bigger motor energy than usual. HAL is also considered as the system that accelerates a motor learning of cerebral nerves.
When a person moves the body, he or she first thinks about the motions in his or her brain.
By thinking “I want to walk.” the brain transmits necessary signals to muscles necessary for the motions through nerves.
The speed of signals that are conveyed from the brain to each muscle is between approximately 150km/h and 400km/h, which is far beyond the speed of Shinkansen bullet train.
It is indispensible for HAL to employ the technology to recognize and understand those high-speed signals at a glance.
In the healthy body, each muscle is able to receive signals destined from the brain to it and move as strongly and fast as intended.
In order to actualize complex bodily motions for walking, the brain always controls number of muscles based on various information from the whole body.
The device that was developed as an application of this principle, was HAL.
Signals sent to muscles by the brain leak on the skin surface as very faint signals, so called “bio-electric signals [BES]”. HAL is able to read BES by only attaching the originally developed detectors on the surface on the wearer‘s skin. By consolidating various information, HAL recognizes what sorts of motions the wearer intends.
BES that leaks out on the skin surface is so feeble. Its voltages are only from 1/1000th to 1/100,000th of the ones that are exerted by dry batteries
As HAL is able to detect such weak signals, it does not overlook the wearer‘s so subtle motions that cannot cause flexion of the leg.
HAL, in accordance with the recognized motions, controls its power units.*2 This function enables HAL to assist the wearer‘s motions as he or she intends and exerts bigger power than he or she ordinarily exerts.
*2 HAL preforms assistance for the wearer‘s motions by a combination of Cybernic Voluntary Control [CVC] system, with which Robot Suit moves as the wearer intends by detecting BES, and Cybernic Autonomous Control [CAC] system, with which Robot Suit replicates human motions based on fundamental motion patterns in the absence of BES.This is the advanced technology on which HAL is founded.
Man‘s speeds of thinking in the brain, controlling the muscle and moving the joint are extremely rapid.HAL, as well as man, is also able to process various information instantly and control the power unit promptly.When the body starts moving, HAL starts moving at the same time. Therefore HAL is able to assist the wearer‘s motions.
The mechanism to move the human body does not end up with only moving muscles. The brain confirms how the body moved on what sort of signals. When HAL has appropriately assisted the motions of “walking”, the feeling “I could walk!” is fed back to the brain. By this means, the brain becomes able to learn the way to emit necessary signals for “walking” gradually. This leads to “the important first step” in walking of the physically challenged person without being assisted by HAL. The only robot that can provide appropriate solutions for motions to the brain is HAL.
Application of HAL to various fields, such as motion assistance in the welfare field, assistance for heavy work in factories and assistance for rescue activities on disaster sites, is prospected.
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