Honda demonstrates prototype walking assist devices

Honda is demonstrating its prototype walking assist devices for the first time in the U.S.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Honda is demonstrating its prototype walking assist devices for the first time in the U.S. as part of a technical exhibition at the 2009 Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress at Detroit’s Cobo Center from April 20 to 23.

Intended to support walking for the elderly and people with weakened leg muscles, the devices are currently being tested in real-world conditions to evaluate their effectiveness. The company has applied for more than 130 patents for the devices.

The first device, Stride Management Assist, is a lightweight, wearable device designed for people with weakened leg muscles who can still walk on their own. It obtains information about the user's walking motions from hip angle sensors, and based on that information, the CPU applies cooperative control and calculates the amount and timing of the assistance to be provided.

With the device's assistance, the user’s stride is lengthened compared to their normal stride and the walking pace regulated, thereby making it easier to walk.

The second device, Bodyweight Support Assist, is also designed to help people with weakened leg muscles, but may also be helpful during some physically demanding activities. It supports bodyweight to reduce the load on the user’s legs while walking, going up and down stairs, and while standing in a semi-crouching position. Overall, it reduces the load on leg muscles and joints in the hip, knees, and ankles.

The device has 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.

Honda began research into a walking device in 1999 as an extension of its advanced humanoid robot, or ASIMO, project. The company is also the host company of the 2009 SAE World Congress this year.

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