Cyberdyne, a Japan-based robotics technology company, recently announced its collaboration with Brooks Rehabilitation and the Brooks Cybernic Treatment Center to bring its Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL®) exoskeleton to the U.S. market. According to the companies, the device is designed to help patients rehabilitate from conditions leading to lower limb disorders, including spinal cord injuries and strokes. There are currently about 200,000 people in the United States that have such injuries.
According to Cyberdyne, HAL® is the world‘s first cyborg-type robot, by which a wearer‘s bodily functions can be improved, supported and enhanced. Cyberdyne explains that wearing HAL® leads to a fusion of “man,” “machine,” and “information.” HAL works by detecting small electrical signals in the patient’s body through the use of small sensors placed on the skin. The signals are detected by HAL®, which responds with a movement at the joint. Dr. Robert McIver, the director of clinical technology at Brooks Rehabilitation, commented that patients using HAL® have seen greater functional changes in a shorter amount of time than with any other intervention method tried in spinal cord injured patients.
The press release notes that HAL® received approval and marked clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2017. The device was previously only available in the EU and Japan, but has been in use in Japan since 2011. In 2011, the suit was estimated to cost approximately between $14,000 and $19,000, down from the $50,000 cost for the first prototypes unveiled in 2006. The monthly rental for a HAL® suit is expected to be $1,000.
According to USPTO public records, Cyberdyne is a listed assignee of a number of U.S. Patents, including, 9,943,458 and 8,773,148, as well as design patents D749,227, and D786,446. Cyberdyne notes that the International Patent Application relevant to HAL® was accredited as a Notable Invention by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).