Wednesday, 25 Aug, 2010 Technology

Latest Invention: Robot Suit to Assist Elderly Farmers


A team of engineers and researchers led by Prof. Shigeki Toyama of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology's Graduate School of Engineering are currently working on the creation of a special robot suit that would ease the work of elderly farmers.

The idea to develop such a suit came to Toyama when he attended a conference in his university, where he heard about the difficulties farmers face.

The latest invention of Toyama is called "Power Assist" and it can be easily worn by elderly farmers using straps that fasten to the body of the wearer.

The suit is powered by 4 ultrasonic wave motors that produce electricity from ultrasonic vibrations. These motors are located at the knees and both sides of the lower back.

It would be interesting to note that the suit allows the user to set its arms in several positions. It considerably eases such work as harvesting grapes, during which the farmers have to keep their arms raised. Besides, when the farmers must work in kneeling position, the suit makes them feel as though they are sitting on a chair.

Power Assist can be controlled using voice commands. All that the worker needs to do is speak into the microphone a particular command.

It is worth mentioning that Toyama's latest invention has already been tested by grape farmers in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture. The robot suit was highly praised by the workers who mentioned that the device made them feel less tired, reports Physorg.

The suit itself weights 18 kilograms (39.6 pounds), but researchers are looking forward to reducing the weight by installing lighter ultrasonic wave motors. Power Assists is expected to hit the Japanese market by 2012 and will be available for about 500,000 yen ($5,830).

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