Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Amazing Feats Of Strength

Futurismic tipped me off to this AP article about a new robotic accomplishment that's really neato-keen. There is a Japanese man, named Seiji Uchida, who's been paralysed from the neck down for the last couple of decades, but had a dream of climbing 13,741-foot Breithorn mountain, one of the highest peaks in Switzerland. He recently had that dream realised (within 500 feet of the top anyway.) Okay, climbing might be the wrong word, since really his friend Takeshi Matsumoto carried him, but still it was a dream fulfilled for Uchida.

"Wait!" you say, "His friend carried him? Up the side of a mountain? How? What is he, Superman?" No, he's not Superman, but he had the aid of a super new robotic tool, a kind of "wearable robot," a "motorized exoskeleton." Matsumoto strapped it on and gained the strength of ten men. EXAGGERATION ALERT!!! EXAGGERATION ALERT!!! Okay, fine, not ten men, but maybe a couple. According to the Associated Press, if someone would normally be able to leg-press 220 pounds, they would be able to lift 396 pounds, robot aided. Still a vast improvement if you ask me. I wouldn't mind having one of those exo-thingies around for doing household maintenance. Just imagine how quick it would be to clean the garage if super-you could lift 80% more than the regular you. On a less self-centered note, consider what it could mean for emergency rescue units. I can't help thinking about firemen carrying people out of burning buildings, and rescue workers carrying car crash victims out of ravines. Heck, strap two people on, and make it a two-for-one rescue. Nifty, huh?