The good news is, we’d have a tireless robotic workforce with superhuman strength to do our bidding.
The bad news is, keeping these machines in line could prove challenging for us mere mortals.
Luckily, these two technologies could give us a leg up.
HAL Gives Your Limbs a Surge of Robotic Strength
The first technology, developed by Cyberdyne, is called Hybrid Assisted Limb (HAL).
A motorized exoskeleton suit attaches to the legs, arms and back of a user and provides the body with increased strength and motor control.
That’s right. HAL works by picking up on bioelectric signals that travel from the brain to the rest of the body along the skin’s surface.
The result? The system’s motors respond by moving the robotic joints in coordination to those signals.
In other words, it predicts what your brain wants your body to do and moves your joints and limbs accordingly. Since it produces 10-times the force that the human body normally does, HAL is perfect for strengthening injured muscles in physical therapy. Heck, it could even give disabled patients the ability to walk again someday.
Here’s a video showing Cyberdyne’s suit in action:
Last Monday, Cyberdyne unveiled a redesigned HAL system that’s able to fit under the radiation-resistant clothing worn by employees at nuclear power plants.
Just in time, too. With cleanup efforts at Fukushima in full swing, I’m sure all those workers currently sporting 130-pound protective gear would welcome the extra muscle! Not to mention the added muscle power is a great way to dissuade robots from starting a revolution.
But this next innovation could give us an even greater advantage…
Telesar V Lets You Bend Full Robots to Your Will
Japanese professor, Susumu Tachi, dreamed up the concept of “telexistence” technology over two decades ago.
The basic idea is to control a remote robotic body, while also receiving input from the robot’s surrounding environment, as if you were actually there.
And that’s exactly what the Telesar V robot does.
You see, the Telesar’s operator is equipped with headphones and a 3-D head-mounted display that tap him into a remote robot’s senses of sight and sound. His hands are also hooked into high-tech sensors that control the robot’s movements and replicate the sensation of what it’s touching. It can even relay temperature changes.
Take a look:
Tachi’s technology is certainly impressive. But there is still work to be done.
For one thing, Telesar V doesn’t have legs. And although the degree of flexibility in its arm joints is on par with a human, its hands fall a bit short.
But as the video showed, they’re still pretty darn limber.
Masahiro Furukawa, of the Telesar team, says, “Our aim is to make it feel as if you’re really in another place… and to enable you to do the things you can [do] with your own body.”
So the potential for this technology goes without saying. Once it’s perfected, consumers could use robotic avatars to travel into space and gather rocks on the moon, or reenact their favorite action movie stunts with zero risk of injury. Robots controlled by paramedics and doctors could even deliver care to people in unsafe areas.
And, of course, the technology would be perfect for creating a giant mechanical army piloted by trained soldiers in a remote bunker.
Fear of a robot apocalypse aside, the potential for both robotic innovations is bound to attract private investor attention, licensing agreements, or even a buyout offer in the near future.
We’ll be sure to track any opportunities to profit from the situation going forward.