How Long Before Cyberdyne’s HAL Robot Suit Proves to be a Viable Business? (Video)

Cybernics research aims to enhance health and vitality through robot suits  DigInfo TV

Technically, logically, and emotionally I have always found Professor Sankai's arguments to be right on target. His vision of a future where human capability is augmented and extended through pragmatic application of robotic technology has tremendous appeal. And his view on how this could (should) be naturally developed in Japan, leveraged by obvious needs in health care and nursing, along with other areas where Japan excels, seems perfectly reasonable. Especially since it allows Japanese robot developers to approach the challenge from a position of strength and know-how.

"In America, a lot of high-tech research originates from the defense and aerospace industries. But in Japan, we'd like to make high-tech advances in the health and welfare field, which is very difficult because technology has to be applied to individuals. And in this way, we think technology from industry could be used to enhance everyday life. We feel this might be one way for Japan to show the world some unique achievements."

However, the one thing that I can't figure out is how it will actually come to fruition. Cyberdyne's technology is certainly world-class, but I have to wonder about the company's business model and long term strategy. Investors and backers have obviously pumped millions of dollars into the project, year after year. Yet no one even begins to hint that it is profitable, even on a run rate basis. 

How deep is the rabbit hole? How much longer will the company's backers continue to support the cash flow required to keep it alive and striving to catch the attention of the world? The jury is still out. Given the state of the Japanese economy over the past few years, Cyberdyne's backers run some risk of not being able to fund the company, even if they want to, since things are getting tighter and tighter here.

The other, possibly significant, risk is a competitive challenger suddenly appearing on the scene - perhaps from Korea or China. While Cyberdyne's robot suits are extremely impressive, even if they don't come in my size, very little of the technology is unique and un-reproduceable. Assuming that a viable market for the robot suits actually exists, which still needs to be proven, Cyberdyne doesn't appear to have created a strong barrier to entry against competitors.

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2 comments

  1. Do you know the news about ISO/DIS 13482 certified by JQA and ISO 13485 certified by UL for CYBERDYNE’s HAL suit?

    This may be a good barrier to other companies.

    • Yes. It is encouraging. However, certification isn’t a competitive barrier to entry. It’s a necessary requirement, especially for the markets that Cyberdyne has targeted, but any competitor that is serious can obtain the same certification – it just takes time and dedicated resources.

      A competitive barrier to entry is typically a patent portfolio, really unique and difficult to replicate technology, or marketing alliances that make it extremely difficult for competitors to enter the market.

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