Honda 'bicycle legs' ease stress of walking
A new device to ease tired and aching legs has been unveiled - looking like a bicycle seat connected to a pair of shoes.
The power-assisted walking machine from Honda. Photo: AFP/GETTY The gadget was developed by Honda, which envisages it being used in factories to help workers on assembly lines, or even for those who have to walk miles to make deliveries.
It is designed to support bodyweight, reduce stress on the knees and help people get up steps and stay in crouching positions.
Engineer Jun Ashihara said the machine is useful for people standing in long lines and for people who run around to make deliveries.
"This should be as easy to use as a bicycle," Ashihara said at Honda's Tokyo headquarters. "It reduces stress, and you should feel less tired."
To wear it, you put the seat between your legs, put on the shoes and push the on button. Then just start walking.
The system has a computer, motor, gears, battery and sensors embedded in it so it responds to a person's movements, according to Honda Motor Co.
Pricing and commercial product plans have yet to be revealed. The carmaker will begin testing a prototype with its assembly line workers later this month for feedback.
The need for such mechanical help is expected to grow in Japan, which has one of the most rapidly aging societies in the world.
Other companies are also eyeing the potentially lucrative market of helping the weak and old get around. Japan is among the world's leading nations in robotics technology, not only for industrial use but also for entertainment and companionship.
Japanese robot company Cyberdyne has begun renting out in Japan a belted device called HAL, for "hybrid assistive limb," that reads brain signals to help people move about with mechanical leg braces that strap to the legs.
Honda has shown a similar but simpler belted device. It has motors on the left and right, which hook up to frames that strap at the thighs, helping the walker maintain a proper stride.