Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hybrid Assistive Limb is a lifestyle changer

Its not quite the Six Million Dollar Man, but we’re getting there.

There is a new exoskeleton called the
Hybrid Assistive Limb,
or HAL, which uses censors on the skin connected to electric motors to increase the user’s strength tenfold.

It works by using sensors applied to the skin that detect the faint electrical currents sent by the brain through the nervous system when it commands a particular activity. These sensors are connected to a computer that interprets the signal and then sends its own command to electric leg and arm braces. Upon detection of the appropriate electrical nerve signal, HAL moves a split-second before the leg muscle itself.

The exoskeleton is being marketed and leased as a rehabilitation tool. That’s a great start, but the ability to add strength times ten to limbs which are not usually cabable of normal power just screams out to me that this would be a lifestyle changer to many. Just think about the difference this can make to people with limited motor strength or to people who are weakened by aging. I’d bet they would think this product was worth six million dollars.

One question I might have concerns the HAL's use with people who have central nervous disorders. Being it relies on nerve impulses, I would think that this might preclude its use for that population. However, despite that one holdback, HAL still fits a broad category of people who would probably find it a great difference maker in their lives.


Casey said...

what happens if we get a super divide. Kinda like the digital divide today, those who really know how to use tech, and those who don't? What happens when we have some who are super, and other who are not super? I'm reminded of the saying about power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is interesting though.

Ron Graham said...

Interesting thought. I hadn't even looked at that angle, but it is food for thought. What if there comes this group of supers that evolve? Kinda sounds like the script for an action movie...and this would be the villain, as it was in in The Incredibles.