DailyTech reported last month about a new HAL suit from Cyberdyne Corp. which is currently available only with robotic legs, but will soon be available with both arms and legs. The suit doubles the users' strength, a feat bringing fantasy visions such as the suit in the movie "Iron Man" closer to reality.
Now Honda Motor Co. is joining the push to create robotic movement assistance devices to create superpower suits to help handicapped individuals. Honda's device for the time being is aimed more solidly at the handicapped market than Cyberdyne's. The new robotic leg assists the user's natural movement and exerts significant force to take stress off the users' joints when walking, travelling up stairs, or "semi-crouching".
Honda says after extensive testing in the lab, it plans to subject the robotic leg to "real world conditions" -- whatever that may mean.
The new Honda device is significantly simpler than Cyberdyne's, but it also looks less chic. It consists of a seat, frame, and shoes. To wear it, a user merely needs to put on the shoes and lift the seat into position. When worn the device takes stress off muscles and ankle, knee, and hip joints.
The "medium size" suit fits users from 5' 6" to 5' 10". It weighs 6.5 kg, but is at least partially self-supporting. Its two motors are powered by a lithium ion battery and can run for 2 hours on a single charge.
Honda claims its suit is superior to competitors as it uses advanced sensing to allow the user to move in a natural motion. The assist force is controlled in concert with the legs and directed towards the user’s center of gravity. This makes the motion feel natural, essential to reducing stress on the joints. Honda says that this technology is "unique".
The walking device initiative was first launched by Honda in 1999. The creation of the device borrowed heavily from the walking research that went into Honda's advanced humanoid robot, ASIMO. This research was carried out at the Fundamental Technology Research Center of Honda R&D Co., Ltd. in Wako, Saitama.
To test the usefulness of the device's movement assistance, Honda will be testing the device at the Saitama Factory (in Sayama, Saitama). The testing will begin later this month.