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HAL robot suit almost summits with quadriplegic man in tow

Darren Murph

In another instance of overcoming physical limitations via the help of robotics, a 43-year old Japanese man has (almost) fulfilled his dream of climbing the 13,741-foot Breithorn mountain in Switzerland. Seiji Uchida, who has been paralyzed from the neck down for over two decades, was able to get within 500 yards of the mountaintop with the help of a HAL (hybrid assistive limb) suit worn by his pal Takeshi Matsumoto. We reported that this escapade was in the works a few months back, and thanks to the (completely legal) strength enhancing device developed by Tsukuba University engineering professor Yoshiyuki Sankai, Uchida enjoyed a first-class piggyback ride up the Klein Matterhorn. Sankai's HAL has been in development for 14 years, and has been dubbed a product of his startup company, Cyberdyne (hasn't this name been trademarked by now?). According to Cyberdyne, the HAL allows someone who can normally lift 220 pounds on a leg press to hoist 396 pounds, an impressive 80% increase. Sankai mentioned the HAL could perform under less-than-ideal weather situations including snow, and that his main goal was to use this Alpine climb to build an even better HAL to assist disabled individuals in achieving their dreams -- quite an uplifting objective, eh?

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