Robotic suit to help Japanese baggage handlers

Japan’s robot developer Cyberdyne announces a plan to provide robotic suits to Haneda airport to reduce load on baggage handlers’ waists.

TOKYO, JAPAN (JULY 2, 2015) (TV TOKYO) – Japanese robot developer Cyberdyne announced on Thursday (July 2) it will provide robotic suits at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to help reduce the load on the waists of baggage handlers and passengers.

Cyberdyne, a spin-off venture of the University of Tsukuba, and Japan Airport Terminal Co. – operator of Haneda Airport, – said they had signed an agreement to introduce robots in the airport’s passenger terminals.

The robotic suit HAL, which stands for ‘Hybrid Assistive Limb’, is equipped with a computer, motors, and sensors that detect electric nerve signals transmitted from the brain when a person tries to move his or her waist. When signals are detected, the computer starts up the relevant motors to assist the person’s motions.

“This robot suit detects the signal from the human nerve system to support the waist’s movement. It self-adjusts the level of support it provides to reduce the load on the human waist, while being very light and compact,” developer and CEO of Cyberdyne Yoshiyuki Sankai said.

The ‘Lumbar Type’ HAL weighs three kilograms and operates for up to three hours on a single charge.

Cyberdyne also plans to provide automated cleaning robots able to ride elevators on their own to clean multiple floors and transport unmanned robots that can carry up to 200 kilograms of luggage.

Faced with an ageing society and declining labour population in Japan, Sankai said he believes the airport is an ideal place to test the possibility of robots in future society.

“An airport is in fact a small community. To introduce our robots to the airport and make them evolve with the community inside is closely connected to our dream of making a better society. We believe we can start making a better future from the airport,” Sankai said.

Cyberdyne will rent three robot suits, five cleaning robots and three transport robots to Haneda airport during a six-month test period. The number of robots will be increased depending on the initial outcome, Cyberdyne said.