First Robot Approved as Medical Device to Start Clinical Trials in Germany

A wearable robot developed by Tokyo-based Cyberdyne Inc. has been approved by certification body TUV Rhineland as a medical device, clearing the way for clinical trials to begin in Europe. The medical device—yes, we can call it that now—can help people with leg impairments to get up and walk. Cyberdyne will export approximately 12 HAL robots to German hospital group Bergmannsheil for a clinical trial that will involve some 100 patients.

HAL, which is an acronym for hybrid assistive limb, detects biosignals emitted from the brain to a muscle when a person tries to move. The exoskeleton, fitted with an array of sensors and power units, converts these biosignals into assisted movement.

In addition to engineering smarts, the startup company from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, has a wicked sense of humour. Cyberdyne, of course, is the name of the fictional company that created the cyborgs in the Terminator films, and HAL is the name of the malevolent computer in2001: A Space Odyssey. These are not exactly cuddly namesakes, but the real Cyberdyne assures everyone that it strongly believes that “technologies should be designed for the benefit of humankind.”

If the clinical trials in Germany are successful, the United States and Asia can expect to see these robotic helpers invading their shores next.