Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Stepping Out With Honda's New Robotic Legs

Next week, when car designers convene for the Detroit Society of Automotive Engineers Congress, Honda will unveil two strap-on robotic prosthetic devices that help the wearer walk or squat without ever getting tired—a miracle for the disabled, the elderly or workers with strenuous jobs.

Pop Sci explains the first device, which assists in walking: 

"Stride Management Assist"...secures around the user's waist and grips each thigh. Then, by monitoring the angle of the hips, it calculates the wearer's stride and provides helpful force...In motion, it feels like the machine doesn't want you to amble, pressing instead for a high-stepping march. Wearing it, I climbed a set of steps, feeling like I could climb forever without tiring...

And the second device, which assists in squatting: 

"Bodyweight Support Assist"...consists of a motorized, articulated frame, with a pair of shoes at one end and a bicycle-style saddle at the other. You switch on the device — each strut's servomotor starts to whir individually — zip on the shoes, and then lift the padded saddle up into place between your thighs, where it exerts an upward force of 3 kilograms to help support the wearer's body weight. Not the most comfortable place to experience 3 kilograms of upward force, it turns out.When you bend your knees to crouch down, the force is increased up to 17 kilograms, making it very easy to hold a crouching posture for long periods of time. Proposed users of the device include factory workers who crouch to lift and look under things...

These gizmos may seem like a lark at first glance. But as we've noted before, the market for this sort of exoskeletal enhancement could be huge. As countries from Japan to China to Italy to France grow older, maximizing the mobility of the elderly—and extending the working lives of the well—will become a massive public health issue.

Related: Move Over Iron Man: A Robotic Exoskeleton

[Via Pop Sci]