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Bionics are no longer the preserve of the Six Million Dollar Man: soon the elderly or disabled may be able to walk, climb stairs and do housework with the help of a robotic suit, or exoskeleton. The "hybrid assistive limb," or HAL, is the brainchild of Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai of the University of Tsukuba, Japan. Inspired by Isaac Asimov's sci-fi novel I, Robot and Japanese manga comics, Sankai has produced a suit that weighs up to 22 kg and supports its own weight—and the wearer's—with a metal frame. When the wearer moves a major muscle, a nerve signal sent from...

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