Terminator-inspired robots come to help Filipino patients

A Japanese company that has the same name as the fictional Cyberdyne in the Terminator movies came to the Philippines to enable stroke patients and others afflicted by immobility to walk.

Cyberdyne Inc., which is headquartered in Gakuen-Minami, Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, teamed up with local medical equipment distributor Life1 Corp. to spread the use of Hybrid Assistive Limb or HAL, dubbed as the world’s first cyborg-type robot that enables a physically-challenged patient to move or walk by conveying the bio-electric signals from the brain to the artificial legs.

Cyberdyne says a patient wearing HAL leads to a fusion of man, machine and information.  In the Terminator movies, Cyberdyne is the name of fictional company Cyberdyne Systems which developed Skynet, a network of supercomputers that eventually took over the world. HAL also has the same name as the supercomputer villain in the science-fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Cyberdyne Inc. president and CEO  Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai (left) explains how the Hybrid Assistive Limb works.
“Technology should always support humans,” says Cyberdyne president and chief executive Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai, who is the inventor of HAL.

The HAL lower limb model for medical use moves the patient’s legs to follow his or her intention.  It taps the bio-electric signals from the brain and the skin surface to move the artificial legs, enabling the patient to stand up, walk or sit-down.  HAL is adjustable to embrace the patient’s body.

Sankai says his company is collaborating with Life1 to bring the cybernics technology in the Philippines. “I love humans.  When I was nine years old, I decided to be a scientist,” says Sankai, in explaining how he became a leading force in cybernics.

The machine he invented has sensors that interpret the signals from the brain into intention and wills the patient to stand up or walk.  “The Philippines is the perfect venue for the spread of this technology all throughout Asia,” he says.

HAL is the next generation of remedial devices such as cane and wheelchair. 

Sankai, a professor at University of Tsukuba, says that with cybernics, the Philippines can accelerate medical innovation challenges to help patients.  Cybernics is a new academic field that is centered around cybernetics, mechatronics and informatics combined with other fields such as brain/neuroscience, robotics, biology, behavioral science, psychology, law, ethics and business administration.

Sankai says his intention in establishing Cyberdyne is to create an enterprise that implements people-friendly technology for the benefit of society.

Life 1 Corp. president and chief executive Dr. Albert Zarate says victims of stroke and spinal injuries can greatly benefit from HAL.  He says the first installations of Cyberdyne are already available at the showroom of A. Zarate General Hospital in Las Piñas.

Under the deal with Cyberdyne, patients can lease the HAL lower limb type model for an undisclosed amount. He says the plan is to bring down the cost of a 90-minute session using HAL to less than P3,000.

Zarate says he is in talks with government agencies such as Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. to subsidize the cost of leasing the machines and make them affordable to poor Filipino patients.

A. Zarate Hospital started offering a dozen HAL models to patients with diseases and injuries related to the brain-nerve-muscular system such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and others.  About 17 patients already tested the HAL machines, according to Zarate.

Cyberdyne and A. Zarate Hospital recently held the Cyberdyne Robotic Medical Symposium at Okada Manila to introduce the technology to healthcare professionals.

Zarate says more Filipinos can benefit from HAL with the help of the government.  “I, as a doctor myself, would like to spread this all over the country.  The only way I can do this is if our government will help us,” he says.

“This technology is not only for the rich.  It is for all patients afflicted with immobility, secondary to any illness, spinal cord injuries. We hope to make this available to public and private hospitals.  We hope that it can be afforded by all patients and we intend to spread this to all regions,” says Zarate.

“We would like this to be very accessible just like any other medical gadget.  The more we will have government support, the more it will be cheaper.  As a doctor, I have seen so many patients who are not able to pay for their bills.  I do not like this to be used by only people who can afford it,” he says.

Zarate clarifies that Cyberdyne and Life1 are not selling the machines.  “This is one thing that is good with Cyberdyne.  The machine is not for sale.  It is only for rent on a per use [basis].  It is very good because we do not put too much strain on the hospital or the patient.  It is important that we make it affordable.  Cyberdyne has designed it to be affordable to all nations,” he says.

“Our company, Life1 Corp., in collaboration with Cyberdyne, already set the first installation [12 lower limb models] in our hospital in Las Piñas—A. Zarate General Hospital.  We now have the showroom for this technology.  We want to spread it all over the country,” he says.

Topics: Cyberdyne Inc. , Life1 Corp. , Terminator movies , Hybrid Assistive Limb , HAL
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