Seiji Uchida is 49 years old and for the past 28 years he’s been left paralyzed from the waist down and to one of his arms after a dreadful car accident. He’s never lost hope of walking on his own two feet ever since, though, and now thanks to the marvels of Japanese robotics, his dream of his visiting the medieval French World Heritage site of Mont Saint Michel will become true.
Called the Hybrid Assistive Limb or HAL, the Japanese robot-suit which will assist Uchida looks like something that’s been manufactured straight of an Iron Man comic strip design. Not only does it look incredibly awesome, in lack of a better term, but more importantly the exoskeleton will help carry Uchida up the hill of Mont Saint Michel which, interestingly, inspired Minas Tirith in Lords of the Rings.
“Right now, I cannot stand on my own feet without help,” said Uchida at Tokyo’s Narita airport before his departure to France.
“But I will never give up on my hope of someday walking on my own feet, no matter how many years it would take.”
Battery-powered, HAL can allow for weights of up to 80 kilograms to be carried by the wearer – more than enough for Uchida, who weighs 45 kilograms. The suit does this by catching very weak biosignals which can be detected on the surface of the skin though its sensor. Based on these signals, the power unit is controlled to move the joint unitedly with the wearer’s muscle movement, enabling to support the wearer’s daily activities.
This won’t be Uchida’s first European adventure. In 2006, he, with a support team used an earlier version of the suit in an unsuccessful attempt to conquer the 13,661-foot Breithorn peak in Switzerland. Uchida said he wants to visit the rocky tidal island of Mont Saint Michel, where a steep and narrow trail leads to an abbey and former fortress, to “prove that it is possible for disabled people to visit the world’s historic sites without relying on facilities like elevators,” he said.
“HAL” is expected to be applied in various fields such as rehabilitation support and physical training support in medical field, ADL support for disabled people, heavy labour support at factories, and rescue support at disaster sites, as well as in the entertainment field.