Honda has unveiled a new walking assist device that supports bodyweight and could reduce muscle and joint fatigue for people who stand for long periods of time or perform repetitive tasks that put strain on the lower body.
The new device reduces the load on leg muscles and 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, going up and down 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 a mechanism that allows the seat and frame to follow the movement of the body and legs, and the ability to support the user's centre 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. This research has been conducted by the Fundamental Technology Research Center of Honda R&D Co., Ltd. in Wako, Saitama.
Honda will now begin testing the device in real-world conditions.Published 11 November 2008