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Honda's new robotic movement assitance device adds to the users' strength and reduces stress on joints. It the culmination of years of research from Honda on the device and walking research for the robot ASIMO.  (Source: Honda)

The suit will be deployed for a real world field test at a Honda car assembly plant in Saitama. It is expected to ease stress on the workers' bodies, reducing injury.  (Source: Honda)
Another Japanese company steps to the plate to bring mech-suit fantasies (and relief for the disabled) closer to reality

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.

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RE: Beware of the Manga Monster!
By HandiCapable on 11/8/2008 1:23:57 PM , Rating: 5
You got it right Clauzii. Speaking for those with lower limb disabilities, this tech and related r&d, isn't just interesting, it has the promise to be life changing. The thought that I might some day get out of my wheel chair, drop the crutches, and play ball with my young sons is just overwhelming. This stuff looks like it's not too far from being commercially viable. I'll always joke along with the rest of you, but forgive me for dreaming big at the same time :)

RE: Beware of the Manga Monster!
By JonnyDough on 11/8/2008 3:26:44 PM , Rating: 5
I agree with you. Reading through the comments on DT sometimes, I wonder if I'm an elder on here at the young age of 28. A lot of comments on here seem to have a lack of perspective and a certain immature quality about them. I often feel like I'm too old for this site. I think any invention that aids in muscular replacement can help a lot of people. This will not only help those confined with muscular dystrophy and such things, but elderly who are no longer able to move about very well. Many still desire to have a life in which they don't have to rely so much on others for every little thing.

What some readers may fail to realize is that this is not only a blessing for those confined by their limitations, but for those that are currently taking care of those that are confined. For someone like yourself, being able to walk around daily will impact not only what you can do, but how you feel about requiring help from others - and let's face it...those that are mobility challenged ARE sometimes a burden to those around them - even though they are also a blessing. Societal life is give and take, using our strengths to the benefit of others, while they use theirs to benefit us. If you're someone who wants to sit back as a young ignorant person and not think this matters then they you to realize that eventually your life too will somehow be effected by disability. If this gives strength to those that could really use it - then it potentially benefits everyone.

Let's say your girlfriend dedicates every other weekend to helping her grandma clean house, then imagine how an invention like this could help you spend more time with her. Even if something like that doesn't happen, you too will one day probably want something like this. This R&D isn't just potentially life changing, it's life changing for many many people. Even if you don't need it today, you could need it tomorrow - maybe you're in an accident and need to rebuild strength and find your mobility again through therapy. This could help.

RE: Beware of the Manga Monster!
By HandiCapable on 11/8/2008 8:47:05 PM , Rating: 5
I know what you mean. There are a few of us old folks around here. I'm 41, but my friends would say I stopped developing emotionally at 15!

You understand the broader implications. I showed this to my wife this morning and she said, "That sure would make my life a lot easier!". My seven year old asked if I could coach his basketball team with these legs. The disabled are well aware of the burden we sometimes place on others, and truly it just sucks. It's all these cool gadgets that help us ambulate, or in some other way contribute to gettting us through our day, with as little assistance as possible that really helps to make us productive contributors to our families, communites, employers, etc...

I understand why people first think about how it makes you look. All I can say is, spend a few months in bed having nurses cleaning you up, and then a few years in a wheel chair. You won't give a hoot about how you look!

RE: Beware of the Manga Monster!
By DanD85 on 11/9/2008 10:26:27 AM , Rating: 3
Thanks god, at least there's some decent comment here. I'm really really worry about the youngsters nowadays, they seem to be so obsessed with how they look and those "pointless" face values.

No woder why the number of American student that follow fundamental sciences and technologies keep decreasing every year. We should feel ashamed that the Japanese is leading in robotic-assist technology and they maybe one day, can roll out the real "Iron Man" before the American does. How ironic that could be. So, instead of laughing at these ideas, we should pour our mind and money in technology like this that will really changing lives.

Finally, 1 small advice for those youngster "Flex your tongue 7 times before you speak". Thank you!

RE: Beware of the Manga Monster!
By realmp06 on 11/9/2008 10:08:00 AM , Rating: 2
This device is very unique and will be able to help elderly and someday me if I would ever need it too.

Have you ever thought how this would be used in the military though? The Army is all about safety and when a soldier has to carry a lot of weight to take with him in the field, this could be a solution. I am not saying this device is the solution, but at least the R&D is in place to make it very useful in the Army as well.

If I were the elderly though, I would ask for an extended battery life. At 2 hours, even for the elderly, I don't think that would be long enough. Let's say, 4-8 hours would actually make the device worth while to have.

RE: Beware of the Manga Monster!
By Clauzii on 11/8/2008 5:42:30 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks. In a world with a lot of stupid useless inventions I love to praise when something like this arrives. More far-reaching than a new rainbow colored knee pillow :)

I hope You didn't misunderstand that I wouldn't walk around with it. Of course I would if I needed too. Right know it would only be for laziness.

RE: Beware of the Manga Monster!
By JonnyDough on 11/8/2008 6:03:14 PM , Rating: 2
While it may "look funny" I'm sure people in wheelchairs don't think they "look funny" and would just as soon be walking if they could.

RE: Beware of the Manga Monster!
By JonnyDough on 11/8/2008 6:06:32 PM , Rating: 2
I should also add that anyone using creative thinking should be awarded for trying. Even Albert Einstein made a lot of useless's in all those useless inventions and failures that he created things of use.

RE: Beware of the Manga Monster!
By Clauzii on 11/8/2008 6:49:37 PM , Rating: 2
Personally I just think that some inventions (those that bring nothing to humanity but get produced anyway) should be left alone and that the, somehow, wasted focus could be used more wisely.

But hey, I'm a musician; of course there are the so called 'wasted' time - moments where new ideas evolves from, true!

RE: Beware of the Manga Monster!
By JonnyDough on 11/9/2008 11:52:07 AM , Rating: 3
Much of what we humans do is a "waste of time."

How much money has gone into research that produced no results at all? Billions. But does that mean the research should not be done?

How many of us doing jobs is really making a huge impact and difference in others lives? I highly doubt that decorative millwork that goes on a house is really changing lives. It's only beautification, but the chemistry work done to make proper silicone moldings was still done and considered "very important" by whoever did it. Humans create. It's what we do. One person's worthless work is another person's beautiful masterpiece.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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