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Robotic Suit to Assist Easy Movement for Elderly

Tokyo: Elderly Japanese may be able to enjoy independent lives even longer than they do now with a newly-developed // robotic suit, which is designed to assist the user's limbs and could be in use by next year.

The suit, developed by professor Yoshiyuki Sankai and students of Tsukuba University, helps the user walk more easily and avoid muscle strains. It also helps the person lift objects as heavy as 20 kg. Sensors on the suit correspond with the user's brain signals, which would tell muscles to move.

The suit called, Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL, is expected to go rental mainly for rehabilitation and everyday assistance as early as 2008, in collaboration with Daiwa House Industry Co, the Nikkei Weekly said.

Daiwa House and the university venture company Cyberdyne Inc plan to produce 400 suits a year and set the monthly leasing fee between 60,000 yen ($495) and 20,000 yen. Each suit is worth 500,000 yen.

Daiwa has invested about 1 billion yen in Cyberdyne, Japan's business daily said.

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