Honda recently announced that its long-anticipated Walking Assist Device will be undergoing clinical research at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The device was designed by Honda R&D Co., Ltd. and is intended to aid stroke victims in regaining mobility and increasing functioning abilities. Strokes are the current leading cause of adult-onset disability, causing difficulty walking in terms of speed, pattern and general strength. As a mobility company, Honda hopes to create technology that will make personal mobility available for everyone.
The Walking Assist Device or Stride Management Assist (SMA) will ideally be able to reduce these problems by mechanically aiding a person’s walking abilities. The device relies on cooperative control technology, much like Honda’s humanoid robot ASIMO. Since research and testing began in 1999, this technology has been developed based on Honda’s cumulative study on human walking. Honda is just one of several auto manufacturers who apply successful findings in automotive technology to other areas of research.
The SMA uses sensors on the user’s hips to detect and track movement, thereby activating the device’s arms to move the user’s legs in a more healthy and natural gait. This will ideally help improve the symmetry and timing of each leg’s motions in order to create a longer, easier stride. These assisted movements could make a major impact on the mobility of stroke victims and other people struggling from illness or injury-related disability.
“The goal of post-stroke rehabilitation is to reintegrate individuals back to their highest level of function for employment, social and community participation. The return of mobility and walking is a crucial part of this return to function,” said Arun Jayaraman, PT PhD, of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy, Northwestern University and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and Principal Investigator in the clinical research study.
The device itself weighs only six pounds due to the slim motors and control technology used, and its adjustable belt can accommodate people of many different body types. The SMA also has a rechargeable battery life that can last up to an hour of walking time.
[Sources: Honda, MedGadget]