Honda’s Exoskeletons Help You Walk Like Asimo (video)

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The Bodyweight Support Assist Exoskeleton

Honda’s Asimo robot was taught how to walk like a human, and now its technology is returning the favor. The Japanese mega-corp has two walking exoskeletons based on Asimo research that assist humans in walking. The Bodyweight Support Assist exoskeleton is a set of thin legs attached to a seat. Users sit on the seat and slip their feet into shoes on the robotic legs. This system supports bodyweight to assist people in walking and moving up and down steps. The other, Stride Management Assist, is a brace worn around the hips and thighs that provides added strength when flexing that joint. It has been shown to increase efficiency in walking and other daily activities. It’s currently under development and being tested by 130 patients in the field. Both devices may prove to be valuable tools in helping the elderly maintain their mobility, assisting the disabled, and easing the stress on physical laborers. Check out the Honda exoskeletons in the video clips below. Walking like a robot looks pretty natural.

It’s unclear how quickly Honda will be able to bring these exoskeletons to market. Their latest video is actually more of a cartoonish video with some live action footage thrown in.

For actual live action footage of the two Honda exoskeletons, you have to go back a little further to when Honda sent the devices out for press conferences. Check out these older videos from DigInfo and TechCrunch.

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Stride Management Assist

I should apologize to Tsukuba University for dismissing their very similar knee exoskeleton device in my review earlier in the year. In the context of assisting the elderly, these partial leg exoskeletons make a lot more sense than I previously thought. Maintaining mobility is one of the key ingredients in keeping seniors in their homes as they age, and that is something that everyone (families, doctors, insurance agencies, etc) is looking to protect as the world population continues to age.

It seems a little ironic that it will be the oldest among us (and perhaps the most techno-phobic) who are most likely to be integrated with robots first. With walking exoskeletons like those developed by Honda, the elderly will be able to get around in their homes and walk further outside them without tiring. While there are some meaningful applications in industry (as seen in the videos above) I think medical applications will ultimately dominate this niche in the exoskeleton ecosystem. It will be interesting to see how our feelings towards robots change as we see them less as the Terminators form science fiction and more as the assistants to our grandparents. Should be harder to fear the machine when you’re giving your cyborg granny a hug.

[image credits: Honda]

[source: Honda News, Cooper-Hewitt]

Discussion — 21 Responses

  • Krunkster September 14, 2010 on 6:45 pm

    I think robotics in japanese pop culture, especially manga and anime, must create an atmosphere where it’s acceptable for big corporations to finance robotics research. Good for them, and the world, but I still find it hard to picture elderly assistive robotic technology without being reminded of Roujin Z.

  • Bill September 15, 2010 on 11:22 pm

    I kind of feel sorry for that first guy walking around outside. You could just see, “I feel like _such_ a _tool_” scrolling across his frontal lobes. But with this device, granny can stand on her front porch all day long, yelling “Get off my lawn!!!” at the kids without getting tired. ;-)

  • Evo2 September 17, 2010 on 9:44 am
  • Ma September 17, 2010 on 11:23 am

    Um, why is the sketch in the video tying his penis to his shoes?

  • ROTFL September 17, 2010 on 11:26 am

    It seems like a great idea for the elderly that may not have as much energy as they used to or recovering accident patients. However, since they don’t have much money and can easily be relegated to nursing homes or hospitals, the video is targetted toward industrial and service workers sothey can sell a million units to multinationals. Way to go Honda – great concept but once again, on the evil, money-grubbing side of things.

  • Guest September 17, 2010 on 12:43 pm

    Two words… FAT PEOPLE!

  • iGuy September 17, 2010 on 1:59 pm

    this is exiting for me. I have a daughter with spina bifida who is struggling to learn to walk. This type of device could be great for her.

  • SteveG September 17, 2010 on 2:38 pm

    Thanks for the post Aaron. I like the direction that Honda has taken, especially the natural, (mostly) unimpeded movement. My study of future product introductions in this space – which I wrought about last year in a post titled “Grandpa Ironman” (http://bit.ly/baVLTL) – is that the real explosion in these products will be when the materials are able to be easily strapped on, like Berkely Bionics Exohiker and HULC products before they were acquired by Lockheed for high-dollar mil purposes last year.

  • Husbus September 17, 2010 on 4:42 pm

    New ways for us to get fat.

  • guest September 17, 2010 on 8:06 pm

    This machine is only good for walking. It would be really nice if they can design one where your back is supported when going down to pick up something from the ground.

  • Fred Lovett September 19, 2010 on 4:28 pm

    I am 82 years old totally healthy except my legs are getting weaak and I have difficulty gettin up the stairs. I live I do not want to move, and this lookks like an ideal solution. where can I get one and how much?

  • Fiona October 17, 2010 on 2:53 pm

    will it help us like the hal ,get out the wheelchair,and its to bulky the hal has been trimed down,but as a member of the british public my moneys going to the most disreet robot legs, so it can go under my clothes,and i can go shopping without people staring or pointing,

  • www.centralcontracts.com December 17, 2010 on 12:49 pm

    This is so strange.