Last time we checked in with the Power Assist Suit (or PAS), it wasn't quite ready for prime time, though it promised to give Japan's elderly a robotic boost when it comes to manual labor. Now, it's all grown up, and some concrete details are coming out about the suit's performance — including when we can expect an uprising of elderly half-robots.
Developed by Professor Shigeki Toyama and his team at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, the PAS comes in two flavors. There's a heavier-duty, 66-pound version of the suit that can assist in lifting large loads, and a 50-pound version for lighter work. The suits are said to be able to boost a wearer's strength by over 60%, and is voice-activated to boot.
"If the farmer bends over to grasp a radish, his back will be firmly supported," student Gohei Yamamoto said during a demonstration of the suit. "A brief vocal instruction will instantly straighten the rods along his legs, giving him the power he needs to pull the vegetable without effort."
The PAS has been in production for well on fifteen years now, and will finally see a real world application when the suit lands in 2012, after going into production this year. It'll cost $11,000.
So far, Toyama has no plans to deliver the suit outside of Japan, such as to North America or Europe, "where foreign migrants workers often perform farm-related tasks," he said. He's go future plans for the suit, too, including goggles that could provide a worker with an augmented reality display that would provide relevant information about a task, including the worker's own vitals so he can gauge, say, if he needs a break.