HAL, an exoskeleton designed for lower-body medical use, is finally coming to these shores.
The acronym stands for “Hybrid Assistive Limb,” and the medical version has been available in Japan for several years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved it for availability via licensed medical facilities.
Essentially a walking robot strapped to a user’s legs, what makes HAL unique is its reliance on a mixture of voluntary and autonomous control. It relies on bioelectric signals from its wearer’s nervous system to direct its movements. In other words, as its maker Cyberdyne puts it, it’s not just a robot moving — it’s you.
The device is intended to actively help users re-form connections between what the brain wants, instructions sent through the nervous system and resulting muscle movements — accelerating the learning process needed to overcome many lower-limb disabilities.
A cybernetic treatment center with the HAL for Medical Use device is slated to open in Jacksonville, Florida, within the next few months.
For the full story, including one author’s first-hand experience with a non-medical version of the device, visit IEEE Spectrum.