Japanese researchers on Thursday showed off a full-body robotic suit that is intended to be used by those working at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. The brain wave-controlled suit is meant to allow those wearing heavy radiation protecting gear to move freely without feeling the weight. In what is said to be a coincidence, the suit is called HAL, for Hybrid Assistive Limb, the same name as the evil supercomputer in the famous sci-fi movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. “I’m sorry Dave, but I can’t let you go near that radioactive debris.”
HAL has a network of sensors that are used to monitor the user’s brain signals, then it moves the suit’s limbs at the same time as the wearer, meaning there is little to no weight or force on their muscles. While Fukushima workers have to wear a 60 kilogram (132 pound) tungsten vest while working in radiation zones, it would be almost weightless, says University of Tsukuba engineering professor Yoshiyuki Sankai. The suit has other important features, like blocking radiation, interior fans to help circulate air, and monitoring breathing and heart-rates for signs of fatigue.