We reported about a motorized knee being developed at Tsukuba University in Japan just yesterday. That and HAL-5, the famous robot suit that lets paralyzed people walk through brain signal control and which was developed at the same university, seem to be just the beginning of the way to merge man and machine.
The Kobayashi Lab [JP] at the Tokyo University of Science has now come up with the Muscle Suit, a wearable robot whose basic concept is quite similar to HAL-5. There are two versions available: One is geared towards workers who have to lift up stuff from the ground regularly. While that Muscle Suit supports the lower back, the version that supports your arms can make you lift objects weighing 50kg without any effort from your own muscles.
The key idea is to use “muscular augmenters”, which are made of rubber and nylon and compressed by air pressure. So the Muscle Suit isn’t as fancy technically as HAL-5 but appears to get the job done, too (it can’t make paralyzed people walk but it primarily supposed to support workers).
The Muscle Suit weighs 8kg (HAL-5: between 15 and 23kg). A practical version is planned to be ready sometime next year.