Robo-Suit Will Help Aging Japanese Farmers Pick Crops with Ease 

Robotic Suit Aids Farmers A postgraduate student at the Tokyo Agriculture and Technology University models a motorized exoskeleton developed to help aging farmers endure the strain of hard labor. AFP

Harvesting the bounty of the earth is harder than it looks, especially you're over 65 years old -- as two-thirds of Japan's farmers are. For those whose joints ache more with every radish pulled out of the ground, Shigeki Toyama, a professor at Tokyo Agriculture and Technology (TAT) University, has developed a motorized exoskeleton designed to boost the wearer's strength by 62 percent.

The robotic suit uses movement-detecting sensors, voice recognition, and eight electric motors to straighten the farmers' postures and ease the pressure on their joints. Rods automatically straighten the wearer's legs when they are under too much strain, and muscular activity caused by bending the knees and crouching is reduced by half.

After fifteen years in development, the suit is slated to go into production by the end of this year. The preliminary models come in two sizes: a 72-pound frame, which aids heavy lifting, and a 50-pound version for those performing lighter tasks. 


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