Iron Man-style robotic suit designed to give old farmers new-found strength

January 16th, 2009 - 5:23 pm ICT by ANI  

London, January 16 (ANI): A team of Japanese researchers says that it has designed an Iron Man-style robotic suit that can give even the most infirm farmer new-found strength. Project leader Shigeki Toyama, a robotics professor at The Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, describes the prototype robot suit as the latest technological advance designed to assist Japan’’s rapidly ageing farmers.
“I have been working on this for about 10 years now because few young people want careers in agriculture now and older farmers need help to do their work,” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
The suit, which is worn as an external skeleton, consists of motors at the key joints like the lower back, knees, elbows and shoulders.
These motors enable the joints to work in tandem with the wearer and provide additional strength.
“It is designed for a range of activities that farmers are required to do, such as carrying heavy bags of potatoes, pulling ”daikon” (Japanese radishes) from the ground, or pruning branches,” said Toyama.
A demonstration of the suit was given at the universitys farm recently, when it was through its paces by a student who needed only 15 kg of force to extract a daikon from the ground, about half what is usually required.
The robotic suits development attains significance as Japans agricultural sector is in crisis with young people migrating to major cities in search of jobs.
About 50 per cent of the countrys agricultural workers are aged over 60, and the amount of cultivated land is shrinking.
An increasing reliance on imported food is said to have become a cause of concern for the Government, and efforts are being made to persuade more and more people into taking up farming.
Toyama’’s robotic suit presently weighs an unwieldy 25 kg, but the researcher is aiming to reduce that by half and have it on the market within two years. (ANI)

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