Adventurers Plan To Climb Swiss Peak In Robo-Suits
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 6, 2006
TOKYO, JAPAN--Twenty years ago, while gazing at a calendar photograph of the majestic 14,693-foot (4,478-meter) Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps, Seiji Uchida decided he just had to go there.
Such a climb seemed impossible at the time, however, as Uchida was recuperating from a 1983 auto accident in which his spine was severely damaged. Later, during a 1998 visit to Switzerland, the adventurer's hopes faded when he found he could not get his wheelchair anywhere near the summit.
His hopes returned last October, when he saw a new technology being demonstrated on television.
And this coming August, Uchida plans to scale the Matterhorn's 13,661-foot (4,164-meter) neighbor, Breithorn peak, with the help of a robot and a friend.
The robot's name is "HAL", which shares its name with the evil computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey", but actually stands for 'hybrid assistive limb', and is a kind of walking suit or wearable robot. HAL boosts the wearer's muscle strength, and anticipates the wearer's next moves by detecting natural electrical impulses on the skin.
Friend, physical therapist, and experienced climber Takeshi Matsumoto will wear the HAL suit, and carry Uchida piggyback style up the mountain. Kyoga Ide, a 16-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy, will accompany the pair, scaling the mountain on the shoulders of another climber wearing a HAL suit.
"I am trying to create new possibilities for the disabled as well as realize a dream," Uchida told the Japan Times. "My hope is that through this I can give courage and hope to all disabled people in difficult circumstances."
Uchida will be using the event to raise money for his charity, "With Dreams", which aims to help people to experience adventures they thought were off limits to them because of their disabilities.
"Robot suit to give quadriplegic a lift" (Japan Times)
Robot Suit HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb)
Frequently Asked Questions About HAL (Cyberdyne)