Honda Shows Off Latest Assisted-Walking Gadget - InformationWeek

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Honda Shows Off Latest Assisted-Walking Gadget

The device is designed to reduce stress on people's knees and help them up stairs and stay in crouching positions, which might be particularly helpful to people on assembly lines or in factories.

Honda's Assisted-Walking Gadget

Honda's Assisted-Walking Gadget
(click for larger image)

Honda on Friday demonstrated its latest wearable assisted-walking device aimed at helping people working in factories and assembly lines or making a lot of deliveries.

Japan's second-largest automaker unveiled the gadget in Tokyo and said it plans to begin testing a prototype with its assembly-line workers later this month, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. The device, which weighs about 14 pounds, is designed to reduce stress on people's knees and help them up stairs and stay in crouching positions. Honda believes the device will be particularly helpful to people on assembly lines or in factories.

Honda showed a video of auto workers wearing the device on an assembly line while looking underneath vehicles. To use the device, a person places its seat between his legs, puts on the gadget's shoes, and then turns it on to start walking. Between the seat and shoes are motor-driven metal legs to assist the person in walking. The battery-powered device also has a computer and sensors that respond to the person's movements.

"This should be as easy to use as a bicycle," Honda engineer Jun Ashihara said at the company's Tokyo headquarters, according to the CBC. "It reduces stress, and you should feel less tired."

Honda has not decided on pricing or how it would go to market with the device. The company has been doing research on walking-assisted devices since 1999. In April, Honda demonstrated an experimental model with a motor on each leg and a frame that straps on to each thigh. The device is held in place by a frame that rests above a person's buttocks just below the lower back. The robotic device is designed for the elderly and other people with weakened leg muscles.

Honda is among a number of companies developing robotics for the elderly and other people who need assistance in walking. The market for such devices is expected to grow in countries with large aging populations, such as Japan and the United States. Other companies developing assisted walking devices include Toyota and Cyberdyne.

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