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Panasonic, ActiveLink – Company Profile

Panasonic - ActiveLink Promotional Video Screen Capture, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAKqaoV04MI

Panasonic ActiveLink Company LogoPanasonic – ActiveLink

Traded: TYO: 6752
Founded:
 2003 (ActiveLink)
Headquarters: Nara, Japan
Size: 16 employees (2015)

Connect:

Website: http://activelink.co.jp/en

(Note: The Japanese version of the website appears to be updated more frequently.)

Overview:

ActiveLink made its first big splash in the media with the bombastic Dual-Arm Power Amplification Robot.  This giant exoskeleton is basically the real life version of the Power Loader from the movie Aliens, but with large electrical motors in place of the hydraulics.  Since then, ActiveLink has worked on several smaller, lower extremities exoskeletons for easier walking and a soft upper body suit for rehabilitation.  ActiveLink is a spinoff of Panasonic which has provided the initial capitol.  Matt LaWell from IndustryWeek has written a fantastic article on his visit to the company in 2015: An Exoskeleton in the Japanese Countryside.

Projects:

In general, ActiveLink favors exoskeletons designed for able-bodied individuals over rehabilitation wearables.

  • Dual-Arm Power Amplification Robot, MS-2.  This is a giant, electrical motor-driven exoskeleton suit for heavy lifting. Prototype only.
  • Ninja (or Power Loader Light), PLL-04. A rigid frame power amplification suit designed to augment walking for healthy users.  Prototype only.
  • Power Jacket – REALIVE™, this is a soft power vest designed primarily for recovery after stroke.  The prototype model was officially branded under the Panasonic brand but appears to have been developed by ActiveLink in 2003-2005.
  • Assist Suit, AWN-03  A hip and back support exoskeleton designed to help with lifting.  ActiveLink has multiple of these devices in testing.  There is some conflicting information whether the AWN-03 will be produced in large numbers or if ActiveLink will use the information to come with a design iteration around 2017.

Similar Companies:

In 2015, ActiveLink’s main focus appears to be on power amplification exoskeletons.  This is similar to most Japanese and Korean companies which focus on augmenting the labor force to handle heavy lifting within an aging society.  This places ActiveLink in competition with the Japanese Innophys and Cyberdyne, and the Korean Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) all of which are developing motorized exoskeletons for heavy lifting.  Western exoskeletons for heavy lifting in development by the EU and USA tend to be passive devices: Ekso Works by Ekso Bionics, FORTIS by Lockheed Martin, V-22 by StrongArm Technologies, Robomate by the EU’s Seventh Framework Program for Research Technological Development and Demonstration.

Media:

The above is a corporate video showing off some of the older exoskeleton devices developed by ActiveLink.

This video shows off a newer model of the Active Assist Suit that uses the new X-GaN power device which reduces the size and weight of the suit.  Most of the video focuses on the development of the X-GaN but the power suit is featured in both the beginning and end.  The Active Assist Suit has large motors that run a lot of electrical current through them.  The new X-GaN controllers don’t heat up as quickly as traditional silicon-based controllers.  The X-GaN equipped exoskeleton can therefore shed several pounds of weight from cooling elements that are now unnecessary.  Unfortunately, most gallium nitride devices have a reputation for consuming slightly more power.

An artistic video that features some beautiful shots of exoskeletons, including the one used as a feature image for this article.  Unfortunately, the video is in Japanese, but the theme appears to be about workers that enjoy their jobs.  We see a lumberjack, a nurse and a warehouse employee who are all starting to approach retirement age but want to stay on the job longer.  The ActiveLink exoskeletons quickly flicker through the screen, showing the viewer not a final vision but a proof of concept of employees becoming physically augmented.

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