Matsushita and Activelink unveil rehabilitating robotic suit
If tossing on a HAL cyborg suit and ascending a mountain seems a bit intimidating to you, Japanese firms Matsushita (producer of Panasonic) and Activelink have partnered with Kobe Gakuin University to develop a robotic jacket that helps rehabilitate paralyzed individuals with slightly less "lofty" goals. The vest, which slips over an individual's upper body and arms (no leg support just yet), allows the person to move their unaffected arm as they please, while it mimics the muscles in the paralyzed area(s) to help the patient recall the feelings of maneuvering that limb. By teaching the person to take over for the motorized "stretching and bending compressors" within the device, the 1.8-pound suit can gradually help someone to regain stimulation in a previously motionless area of their upper body. Activelink reportedly plans to "start testing" the unit at a Hyogo hospital soon, and make it commercially available by March 2009. The only kicker is the price -- at ¥2,000,000 ($17,159), customers best ensure their insurance plan is mighty stout before suiting up in this.
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