An experimental walking assist device has been developed to help support body weight and reduce the load on the user’s legs while walking, going up and down stairs, and in a semi-crouching position. The device reduces the load on leg muscles and joints (in the hip, knees, and ankles) by supporting a portion of the person’s body weight. It features a simple structure consisting of seat, frame, and shoes, and the user can put it on by simply wearing the shoes and lifting the seat into position. Moreover, a mechanism that directs the assisting force toward the user’s center of gravity and the ability to control the assist force in concert with the movement of the legs make it possible for the device to provide natural assistance in various postures and motions.
Honda began research in 1999 by studying human walking represented by the research and development of Honda’s advanced humanoid robot, ASIMO. This research has been conducted by the Fundamental Technology Research Center of Honda R&D Co., Ltd. in Wako, Saitama, Japan. To evaluate the effectiveness of the experimental model of the walking assist device with body weight support system, Honda is testing the walking assist device at its Saitama Factory.
Natural walking is achieved by changing the amount of assisting force applied to the right and left legs through the control of two motors based on the information obtained though sensors embedded in the shoes of the device.
The effectiveness of the device was increased in those motions and postures which put increased load on knees, such as going up and down stairs and in a semi-crouching position. This was achieved by adjusting the assisting force in accordance with the bending and stretching motion of the knees.
This device is designed for people who are still capable of walking on their own. Its supports a portion of the person’s body weight by lifting the seat as the frame between the shoe and seat bends and extends, just like knees, with the force from the motor. As a result, the load on leg muscles and joints (in the hip, knees, and ankles) is reduced.
The device works by using a unique mechanism where the seat and frame follow the movement of the body and legs. The assisting force will be directed toward the user’s center of gravity, just as with human legs, which enables the device to provide assistance in various movements and postures including walking, going up and down stairs, and in a semi-crouching position. The device (including walking and in a semi-crouching posture) operates for two hours per charge on a lithium-ion battery.
This technology was done by Honda Motor Co., Tokyo, Japan. For more information, visit http://info.hotims.com/34455-195.