Honda has unveiled a curious new walking assist device that supports your bodyweight. It's designed to reduce muscle and joint fatigue for people who stand for long periods of time, or those who perform repetitive tasks that put strain on the lower body. However, it should be stressed it's not designed to help people with disabilities.
The new device reduces the load on leg muscles as well as joints in the hips, knees, and ankles by supporting a portion of the user's bodyweight when bending and stretching the knees during actions like walking, using stairs and crouching.
It comprises of a seat, frame and shoes, which can be fitted easily without being fastened to the user.
Using one of the motors, the seat lifts to take the user's weight as the frame between the shoe and seat bends and extends like real knees. As a result, the load on leg muscles and joints is reduced.
Two unique Honda innovations enable the device to provide natural and effective assistance - there's a mechanism allows the seat and frame to follow the movement of the body and legs, plus the ability to support the user's center of gravity in tandem with leg movement.
Natural walking is achieved by changing the amount of assistance applied to the right and left legs. This is accomplished by controlling the two motors based on information obtained though sensors embedded in the shoes.
The latest device features technology used in Honda's advanced humanoid robot, ASIMO and benefits from the extensive study of human walking patterns carried out by Honda engineers in the development of ASIMO.
Honda began research into walking assist devices in 1999, with an aim to provide mobility to more people.
The device weighs 14.3 lb including the shoes and lithium-ion batteries. When in use, each charge is said to last up to two hours. The device is built for people between 5'4" and 5'8".
Only time will tell whether this device will ever be accepted for general use. It's hard to imagine legions of semi-robotized workers marching to factories with a motorized seat between their legs, but who knows what the future holds?