updated 10:05 am EST, Fri November 7, 2008
Honda walking assist gizmo
Honda Motor on Friday announced it will begin real-world testing of its second experimental walking assist device designed to reduce the strain on a user's leg muscles and joints such as hips, knees and ankles. The device will supporting a portion of user's body weight whether they're crouching, walking or climbing stairs and is meant to help both those physically weakened with age or injury as well as workers who would need to reduce the stress on their bodies from heavy work or unusual positions.
The device will support users within two inches of its preset 5-foot, 7-inch user height. The entire system, including its lithium ion battery and shoes, weighs 14.3lbs, and uses two electric motors to assist users' leg movement for up to two hours before a re-charge is required.
Research on the device began in 1999, which can tell how much assist is required based on information sent by the sensors embedded in the shoes of the device, which monitor and send out weight distribution to identify activities such as walking or crouching. The movement of the knees is also monitored. The carried over some of its research in developing ASIMO, its walking humanoid robot, in the development of this walking assist device. These include the device's ability to direct force toward the user's center of gravity and control the assist force in relation to the movement of the legs, making for more natural behavior.
Honda will begin testing the device at its Saitama vehicle production factory in Japan starting later this month.