A Japanese consortium is planning to develop a robot suit:

companies are preparing for the commercial launch of a “robot suit” that helps aged or physically disabled people walk, get up the stairs or seat themselves to relax without a chair.

Trading house Mitsui and Co. and some 30 other Tokyo firms plan to set up a joint venture in April or May next year to market the powered suit developed by Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor and engineer at Tsukuba University, officials said Thursday.

“This is neither a robot in machine factories nor a one for amusement like a pet robot. This is a brand-new proposal projecting a future image of relations between people and robots,” Sanaki said.

Its name? HAL-3. I’m not kidding.

Like programs to develop uses of RFID and sensors in the household, this suggests the power of the convergence of technology and demographics: Japan’s population is aging rapidly, and in addition to the various social problems that will create, it raises some issues regarding Japan’s place in the global economy. Creating high-tech applications for the elderly would help the country deal with the problems of a graying population, and create a new class of technologies that could be exported to other countries with aging populations– like the U.S. and Western Europe.

[via Smart Mobs]