Honda has announced that in November it will begin lease sales of a robotic device designed to help rehabilitate people learning to walk again after an injury.
The Honda Walking Assist Device has been under development since 1999 and the technology has been trialled at roughly 50 hospitals and other facilities in Japan since 2013, allowing Honda to optimise the equipment.
The technology builds off the back of Honda’s research into human walking that was carried out as part of the research and development of ASIMO, Honda’s advanced humanoid robot.
Based on the inverted pendulum model, which is a theory of bipedal walking, the belt-like device features two motors that help lift the leg at the thigh as it moves forward and backward, lengthening the users stride, which enables them to walk further and faster.
The system is designed to be used in walking therapy under the guidance of a doctor or therapist and will initially be leased to hospitals and rehabilitation facilities throughout Japan.
The motors and control system have been designed to be ultra-light weight by Honda and the belt design and size-adjustable frames makes it easy to put on and take off for patients of any size.
By measuring the unique walking patterns and training status of each user on a tablet–type information device, the system is able to create visualisations to assist both therapists and patients.
It comes with a variety of training modes including follow mode, where the device follows the patients' walking pattern as it assists them and symmetric mode, where the device tweaks the user’s walking pattern to help them achieve bilaterally symmetric motions such as bending and extending both legs.
It also has a step mode which alters the user’s steps repeatedly to recover the rocker functions of a proper gait, which enable the smooth shifting of weight from heel to sole and sole to toe.