On June 15, electronics giant Matsushita Electric (Panasonic's parent company) unveiled a wearable robot suit called Power Pedal, which attaches to the lower body and provides users with up to seven times more leg strength.
Once strapped in, the user applies pressure to a pair of sensor-equipped pedals to control the suit, which is capable of moving in one of six directions with each step. Power Pedal is also designed to handle strolls over rough terrain, according to Matsushita.
Researchers from Active Link, a Matsushita venture company, worked with Ritsumeikan University to develop a prototype of the powered suit, which is set to go on sale in August at a price of 20 million yen ($167,000) each. The company plans to cut the cost to around 3.5 million yen ($30,000) by the year 2015, as they aim to create a commercial product that can help the elderly and disabled to walk.
Matsushita also believes the robot suit could play a useful role in disaster relief operations, especially if combined with the company's previous upper body robot suit technology developed in 2005, which is designed to provide users with an extra 50 kilograms (110 lbs) of arm strength.