A long, long time ago I was in a pub in Cambridge talking to an ex-Mathmo called Rich Walker. We talked about radar systems and robotics, and he mentioned an organisation called Shadow and a concept known as air muscles.
I've kept an interest in what they were doing, so it was with some amazement I read this PhysOrg article on the "world's first prototype of an artificial hand with "air muscles"
Well either it is based upon Shadow's work, or they are using Shadow's "air muscles" or they don't know that Shadow has been doing "air muscles" for over a decade, and building all sorts of wonderful creations with it.
All I can suggest is if the Japanese firm have "independently" created this, that they apply for a patent with the USPTO, EPO etc ...
Over the last two decades there has been an explosion in both patent applications and claims per filing. There would seem to be some evidence to suggest that this growth is correlated to the growth rate of new product introductions as opposed to actual innovation.
I think Audi's claim :-
"To date, NASA has filed 6,509 patents. In developing the A6, Audi filed 9,621."
... says it all.