The Bionic Man saved 1970s America with his cybernetic right arm. Then, in 1986, Sigourney Weaver saved the whole planet from ravenous Aliens with the hydraulic hiss of her giant robot suit. Now researchers at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology, Japan, hope to save the backs of hospital nurses with a similar suit on a smaller scale. It should weigh less than 10kg and enable the wearer to lift and carry a patient heavier than themselves.
When a nurse begins a heavy lift, sensors taped to major muscle groups detect how much additional force is needed, prompting the on-board microcomputer to mobilise a jointed metal frame of concertina-like actuators, powered by compressed air.
The suit should enter commercial production in 2003 and cost about pounds 1,200.