The Hybrid Assistive Limb – or HAL – was has been upgraded to help emergency teams crippled by the mammoth clean up of the plant which exploded as a result of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11 this year.
The suit, first unveiled by scientists at The Tokyo University of Agriculture in 2009, is fitted with motors at the key joints – the lower back, knees, elbows and shoulders – and is worn as an external skeleton to give the wearer double his natural strength.
Currently, clean-up teams have to wear anti anti-radiation tungsten vests that can weigh up to 60kg (132lb), making it difficult for them to operate for long periods of time, particularly in the heat of the summer months.
The outfits have since been re-developed by Cyberdyne, which on Monday demonstrated a unit designed to be worn by emergency teams operating close to the damaged reactors.
“This new type of HAL robot suit supports the weight of protective clothing made of tungsten and enables the wearer to work on the site without feeling the burden,” the company said in a statement. “It is hoped this will reduce the risks of working in harsh environments and contribute to the early restoration of operations by humans in the wake of disasters.”
Efforts to regain control of the damaged reactors are continuing, although high levels of radiation throughout the site remain a danger to the workers. More than 2,000 employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and other companies are at the plant.