If Asimo Can Do It, You Can Too! Assistive Walking Devices From Honda
Though Asimo seems like he'd make such a good butler, he (she? It?) is
not ready to come home with us yet. But some of what Honda learned in
the robot's 22+ years is helping our future mobility, so we can
answer the door ourselves and get our own lemonade. You might say the Stride Management Assist and the Bodyweight Support Assist are Asimo's offspring!
That's right. When we can no longer walk around the entire mall as we used to... or we can't carry our fat butts up the steps... Honda's got two assistive devices to help us get around. And the prototypes will be unveiled this Monday (April 20, 2009) at the 2009 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress in Detroit.
The mobility devices are really wonderful technological advances for anyone who, whether from age or injury, has lost the momentum, the musculature, or the strength to walk. Losing that ability is one of the most disabling conditions, both physically and emotionally, for anyone, no matter what age they may be.
First, the Stride Management Assist is for those who can walk on their own, but whose leg muscles are too weak for them to achieve the walking distance they would like, say, to get enough exercise.
When worn, the motor-driven Stride Management Assist takes a reading of your stride through sensors on your hips, and its computer adjusts the power according to that reading. You may change your stride and the computer will readjust.
The Stride Management Assist will come in three sizes, but is adjustable within those sizes. It weighs about 6 pounds and its lithium ion battery lasts for two hours per change at a walking rate of 4.5 mph.
The Bodyweight Support Assist is a bit more cumbersome, but when it means walking or not walking, who cares? This device is meant to help people who may have more severe weakness in their legs, significant injury to their leg or legs, or too much body weight to carry.
Though the device looks complicated, it's simple to use. Once you put on the special shoes, you just lift the seat into position. The seat and frame follow the movements of the body and balance your weight as you walk toward your center of gravity. The foot sensors in the shoes are able to read how much assistance is required by each leg. What will be particularly noticeable in the Bodyweight Support Assist is greater ease in managing steps, both going up and down, as well as the ability to crouch, or walk in a crouched position.
The Bodyweight Support Assist weighs about 14 pounds; it also has a motor and a computer and is run by a lithium battery that lasts for about 2 hours on one charge.
Both devices are still being tested by Honda, so don't rush to your local dealer, unless you want a new Civic. Do stay a few minutes more though and see these two robot-inspired mobility assistive devices in action.
Honda via Gizmag
Keeping you posted....