Robotic solutions to treatment of various conditions have been introduced to hospitals quite some time ago. But as technologies are leaping forward in a pace never seen before, not doctors have tools to help even those, who did not have a lot of hope to recover. Now they have a new extension for their toolbox as Honda is about to begin lease sales of Honda Walking Assist Device in Japan.
Lease sales of this revolutionary device to hospitals and rehabilitation facilities throughout Japan will begin in November 2015. Honda is planning to lease around 450 of such devices in the first year in Japan at the price of 45,000 yen per month (approximately 330.5 Euros). The hospitals and rehabilitation centres will have to sign 36-month lease contract, which will include maintenance and training needed to prepare personnel of the facilities. However, it is still not stated if Honda Walking Assist Device will be available in other countries as well. In any case, it is a very impressive tool for rehabilitation and therapy.
The Walking Assist Device is a compact wearable device that helps user to achieve smooth walking motion. Its technology is based on the inverted pendulum model, which is a theory of bipedal walking. It features a simple belt structure, which makes it easier for the user to put on and off, although the guidance of a doctor and/or therapist is still needed. It is made using lightweight materials and very thin yet powerful motors, so the device weighs only 2,7 kg including the battery pack. The device can be used for about 60 minutes between charges, which is optimal for one therapy session. It can be adjusted to people of various shapes and sizes and all important information and controls are reached through simple tablet-like device.
Through this device user will be able to choose one of three different modes depending on goals of rehabilitation and condition – Following, Symmetric and Step modes perform different functions. Following mode adjusts the device to the walking patterns of the patient and just assists walking. Symmetric mode is also based on the walking patterns of the user and makes the device influence the user to achieve bilaterally symmetric motions such as bending and extending both legs. The third Step mode helps with rocking motion in the feet – it enables the smooth shifting of weight from heel to sole and sole to toe.
Honda’s Walking Assist Device is very advanced and it is not surprising it took quite some time to develop it. Honda started working on the idea of the Walking Assist Device back in 1999. A lot of research had to be done so achieve all important qualities for such device, which is why it is only released for purchase 16 years later.
Honda largely relied on experience of its other projects, such as currently the most advanced humanoid robot ASIMO. Surely, as with most medical and rehabilitation devices, company could not just start selling them without extensive testing. The Walking Assist Device was tested in about 50 hospitals and other facilities in Japan since 2013, which allowed company to optimize its functionality.
This is a great step forward in helping people with difficulty walking. We can only hope that Honda’s Walking Assist Device will prove its functionality and will quickly spread to other countries as well, as there are people all around the world, who, because of certain conditions or accidents, have to go through long and difficult recovery process. Device like this can better results of rehabilitation and improve quality of life in the future.