Assistive robots that attach to the wearers back to increase their carrying capacity have been developed by Panasonic.
The device, which is awkwardly named AWN-03, has been developed to provide lower back support. It automatically senses the user's motion when lifting and holding heavy objects, and sends a signal to the motors to rotate the gears.
It also raises the user's upper body while pushing on their thighs, and as a result reduces stress on the user's lower back by 15kg.
“Our mission is to help realize a power barrier-less society by offering a helping hand during manual labour and at other worksites" said Hiromichi Fujimoto, president of Activelink, the subsidiary of Panasonic that developed the suits.
“We are proposing robotics to help at these worksites, because there will always be a certain level of work that must be done by people, and these power assist suits can help reduce the physical strain during such work”.
Panasonic has also developed a ‘Power Loader’ robot called Ninja that mimics and aids human motion.
Ninja assists the user's motion while walking and running, for instance hiking up steep mountain paths during afforestation. While the current model only gives extra support to the users legs, an upper body unit of the Ninja is currently being developed, which will help lift and carry heavy items.
The Power Loader suit can be used during disaster relief, construction, and public works. It has four sensors in the hands and feet that control 20 motors.
The company has also been developing Resyone, a wheelchair-like device for the elderly that is combination of electric nursing care bed and an electric full-reclining wheelchair.
Resyone's bed splits in half and one half transforms into a reclining wheelchair in order to help caregivers lift residents from the bed to the wheelchair, reducing the strain on both parties.
“As Japan has becomes an aging-society, Panasonic is aspiring to make its contribution by supporting the elderly and their families lead a comfortable life full of smiling faces and laughter” explained Hitoshi Sasaki, assistant director of Sincere Kourien, an elderly care facility run by Panasonic.
“There are many instances that can be straining to both caregivers and care recipients. Just moving from the bed to a wheelchair can be a very energy consuming both parties (sic)."
Last year, Danish researchers unveiled a portable exoskeleton designed to aid the elderly by providing motorised assistance for their aging joints and bones.