Robosuit to aid greying farmers

The suit amplifies strength. (AFP)

While Robocop and Iron Man can dodge bullets and crush villains, a new powered suit from Japan promises its elderly users more modest powers, such as pulling up radishes without getting a backache.

Unlike its heavily-armed Hollywood counterparts, the Power Assist Suit aims to make life easier for Japan's army of greying farmers.

The metal-and-plastic exoskeleton boasts eight electric motors that amplify the strength of the wearer's arms and legs, as well as sensors that can detect movements and respond to commands through a voice-recognition system.

Professor Shigeki Toyama and his team developed the power-enhancing suit at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and Toyama plans to set up a company to start producing the futuristic outfit by the end of the year.

"If the farmer bends over to grasp a radish, his back will be firmly supported," said Gohei Yamamoto, one of the students working on the team, as he recently demonstrated the suit on his university campus.

"A brief vocal instruction will instantly straighten the rods along his legs, giving him the power he needs to pull the vegetable without effort."

Fifteen years in the making, the robosuit will soon hit the market in Japan to help ageing farmers harvest their fruit and vegetables while avoiding backaches and nasty cramps, its developers say.

Japan, with a low birthrate and a high life expectancy, is facing a demographic crisis as its population rapidly ages and shrinks. Industrial robots have long been common in Japan.

 

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