Honda uses robotics to help elderly walk again

1 Jul 2008

Using technology developed for Honda’s famous ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) robot, the company has developed an assistive walking device that can be used to boost the strength of strides for the elderly and those with weakened or impaired walking.

The device, which weighs only 6lbs and fits around the wearer’s waist, is strapped to the leg just above the knee. The hip sensors detect the strength in the walker’s step and then calculate how much of a motorised boost is needed to effectively propel the person forward.

As the walker’s natural stride is lengthened, the user doesn’t need to expend as much energy as normal.

The technology used in the Walking Assist Device was developed after extensive research into how humans walk. This was the same technology that gave ASIMO its natural gait and allowed it to climb stairs and run – a first for any robot.

The device runs on a lithium-ion battery and powers down after two hours of use so it would not act as a full-time replacement for those with walking disabilities but more as a boost for the elderly when getting from place to place.

From today, collaborative testing will begin on this device in association with the Shinseikai Medical Group in Japan.

Honda has not released any details on when the Walking Assist Device will be available on the market. However, the device is being used in the context of rehabilitation to help, for example, stroke victims learn how to walk again and may be used in the future by physical therapists, researchers and doctors.

By Marie Boran

Pictured: Honda’s famous robot, ASIMO, of which only 46 exist