Thursday, April 16, 2009

Honda develops robotic mobility aids

Kewl! Today, gearhead blog Jalopnik reports on a pair of gizmos from Honda that could be really useful to people with MS. Does the 7-lb. Honda Stride Management Assist (in the Jalopnik photo at left) sound like something you could use? Snip:
It's designed for people with weakened muscles that can still walk on their own, but could use some help getting back in shape after an injury or tackling difficult tasks like walking up steps. Basically, a motor sits on each hip and helps lift the leg using and arm and strap connected down by your knee. Its your own movement that activates and controls the length and degree of assistance, so you won't find the device trying to force you into movements you didn't already want to make.

The other gizmo is called the Honda Bodyweight Support Assist. It helps support the wearer's body weight in a variety of positions; Jalopnik says "It's like your very own seat that walks around with you wherever you go." It's wonkier-looking (kinda like a robotic dancing coach?) and weighs 14 lbs. Both devices are powered by batteries good for 2 hours of use.

The last time I got excited about a mobility aid was when the Segway came out. These seem to have a lot more potential for use in the real world (I think the lightest Segway, the p Series, weighs 70 lbs.). If American automakers were coming up with stuff like this, I'd have an easier time seeing the importance of maintaining a domestic auto industry.


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