The Latest Robot From Honda: A "Walking Assistant" to Push You Upstairs

By Eliza Strickland | November 10, 2008 11:05 am

Honda robot walkerHonda’s robotics division has unveiled the prototype of a strange new helper: a “walking assistant.” Honda says the robotic legs could restore mobility to the elderly or infirm, and could help prevent factory workers from straining their muscles–if they don’t mind being joined to the strange looking device. The user would employ the device by stepping into a pair of shoes attached to jointed legs. The legs support a mildly-scary looking U-shaped saddle, which cups the wearer’s groin and buttocks firmly to deliver solid uplift…. Honda say that the machine reduces load on the hip joints, and helps not just with walking but also standing – and especially with maintaining a crouched position [The Register].

The device, which weighs about 14 pounds and is powered by a motor and Lithium ion battery, is the result of Honda’s nine-year-old initiative to develop mobility-assisting technologies. The creation of the device borrowed heavily from the walking research that went into Honda’s advanced humanoid robot, ASIMO [Daily Tech]. Honda hasn’t yet announced plans to begin selling the walking assistants, but tests of the prototype will begin this month.

Honda plans to test out the device on workers in its Saitama car factory, and says the devices could be a great boon to workers who crouch down along the assembly line. And while the robotic legs aren’t suitable for paraplegics or people with serious muscle control issues, they could give a necessary boost to people with weak leg muscles, or patients recovering from accidents or surgery.

The need for such mechanical help is expected to grow in Japan, which has one of the most rapidly aging societies in the world. Other companies are also eyeing the potentially lucrative market of helping the weak and old get around. Earlier this year, Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp. showed a Segway-like ride it said was meant for old people. Japanese robot company Cyberdyne has begun renting out in Japan a belted device called HAL, for “hybrid assistive limb,” that reads brain signals to help people move about with mechanical leg braces that strap to the legs [AP].

Related Content:
80beats: Robotic Exoskeleton Allows a Paralyzed Man to Walk
DISCOVER: 3 Amazing Science Projects includes coverage of “Iron Man suits”
DISCOVER: Future Tech delves into the army’s efforts to use exoskeltons to create super-soldiers

Image: Honda

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
MORE ABOUT: aging, cars, gadgets, robots
  • http://leftwingfox.blogspot.com Left_Wing_Fox

    The pusher robot is here to protect us from the TERRIBLE SECRET OF SPACE!

    http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/terriblesecret

  • Ken Gullekson

    I find it amusing that “Cyberdyne” (the name of the Japanese company making the “walking assisant” featured in this article) was the name of the company in the TERMINATOR movies that created the robots that waged war against mankind.

    Apparently, the rules of engagement are different now. Instead of killing people with guns, the robots (terminators?) will assist people to waste away from lack of use of their own muscles. Slower, but just as effective.

  • tim
  • Therese Ferguson

    This looks fantastic would you have any idea the cost of this product.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ Eliza Strickland

    Sorry, I haven’t heard any info on what it might cost — Honda is still testing the device, and hasn’t discussed when it might appear on the market.

  • http://flotserver.net modernrocko

    Ken: That’s the idea. Robots might as well be patient anyway, if they understand the human mind, they’ll understand that we’ll end up blowing ourselves up anyway.

  • els

    we are very greatful to know about this “walking assistant device”.
    I am looking forward to know more information about it. it looks very useful and helpful for my son ( 16 years old ).
    He is able to walk around in the water but has no strength to walk on the ground he tends to bend his knees so he use a wheelchair to help him mobile.
    We train him to walk by using braces and walker.
    Hope you will concern about my son and help him by making his life easier.
    we are agree if you would like to use my son for experimenting your new design.
    Thank you so much and do look forward to your responses.
    Sincerely yours,
    mrs.sunarjadi setiawan.

  • William Smith

    Dear people of Honda,
    I was paralyzed from a chest cold at age 13, Guillian-Barre’Syndrome, that was in 1973. The doctor told me that I would never walk again and not live
    to be 20. By God’s grace, a wonderful family and a great deal of hard work on my part, I can
    walk with short AFO’s and a cain. Presently I’m 48, my right foot turns out
    when I walk so my right knee will have to be repaired. I think that “walking
    assistant device” would help me? THANK YOU All for your contribution to all
    mankind! May God bless you!
    Sincerely yours,
    Will Smith

  • chris

    hi there please tell me where i can get this robot walking assistance
    because my niece is disabled and cant walk or move
    or talk , this could be a chance for her to get her muscles
    back in shape , thank you

  • TB

    Is this product out on the market yet? If so, where and how much does it cost?
    Thank you!

  • Rita

    I have a son who sufferred a head injury in 1994 which has left him with a balance problem. Would this help him walk unaided?

  • http://derbyarchitects.com/privacy.html leicester architects

    I was suggested this web site through my cousin. I’m now not positive whether this put up is written through him as no one else know such targeted about my difficulty. You’re wonderful! Thanks!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »