Robots that Help Patients Walk Again
Robots will be standing by to help paralyzed patients and the elderly walk.
Toyota unveiled four such robots in Tokyo. The robots, designed to provide support in nursing and health care, are expected to be available for sale in 2013.
They include sensors that detect the user's posture, grasp and holding strength, and high-precision motor control technology to facilitate the patient's desired motion.
The first of the robots – the Independent Walk Assist – is a computerized leg brace that is mounted onto a paralyzed leg and helps the knee bend as the person walks. It can support the patient’s weight, and it adjusts as the patient develops more strength.
The second robot uses similar technology but focuses on retraining those who are walking-impaired. The Walk Training Assist robot detects movements in the hips through sensors located at the foot and thigh of the computerized brace and supports the return to natural walking.
The Balance Training Assist helps those who struggle with balance while standing up. Patients stand on the device, which features two wheels, and they play video games that strengthen their muscles.
The fourth and most advanced robot – the Patient Transfer Assist – reduces the physical burden required of caretakers when transferring patients. With the combination of weight-supporting arms and a mobile platform, this robot helps the caregiver move the patient, such as from the bed to the bathroom.
The robots were developed in collaboration with Fujita Health University Hospital in Japan's Aichi Prefecture.