Iron Men walk the streets of Tokyo

Iron Man suits hit the street before part 2 even hits theaters. Japan's robotics venture Cyberdyne's with a name straight out of the comic books have created the robot-suit "HAL" (Hybrid Assistive Limb) with a name ripped straight from 2001 Space Odyssey, is now available for rent and is being tested on the streets of Tokyo:

HAL, an exoskeleton, is a mind-controlled wearable machine that gives humans enhanced mobility. It helps the wearer to stand up from a chair, walk, climb up and down stairs, and lift heavy objects. The suit can operate for almost five hours before it needs recharging. The exoskeleton has robotic limbs that strap to your arms and legs, and the suit's backpack contains a battery and computer controller. When the wearer attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles, and very weak traces of these signals can be detected on the surface of the skin. The HAL exoskeleton identifies these signals using a sensor, and a signal is sent to the suit's power unit telling the suit to move in sync with the wearer's own limbs.

HAL comes in three sizes -- small, medium and large and weighs in at 23kg (50.7 lbs). A single leg version rents for 150,000 yen ($1,570) a month, while a two-leg unit goes for 220,000 yen ($2,300) a month. Cyberdyne has yet to announce when HAL will go on sale to the public or what the price tag will be. Tokyo rentals were initiated in August, 2009. With fashionable cyborg exoskeletons now available for rent on the streets of Tokyo, can major U.S. cities be far behind?

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