TOKYO (AFP) - Japan has taken a step into the science-fiction world with the release of a "robot suit" that can help workers lift heavy loads or assist people with disabilities climb stairs.
"Humans may be able to mutate into supermen in the near future," said Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor and engineer at Tsukuba University who led the project.
The 15-kilogram (33-pound) battery-powered suit, code-named HAL-5, detects muscle movements through electrical-signal flows on the skin surface and then amplifies them.
It can also move on its own accord, enabling it to help elderly or handicapped people walk, developers said.
The prototype suit will be displayed at the World Exposition that is currently taking place in Aichi prefecture, central Japan.
Japan has seen a growing market for technology geared toward the elderly, who are making up an increasing chunk of the population as fewer younger Japanese choose to start families.
A government report last week showed that pensioners made up a record 19.5 percent of the country's population in 2004 and that the ratio will grow rapidly, surpassing 35 percent in 2050.