As I mentioned earlier, Honda is in town to demo their two walking assist devices for the first time in the US. I was given the opportunity to test both models out in midtown Manhattan this afternoon. The applications for both models are pretty obvious and Honda has been testing the Bodyweight Support Assist at their Saitama factory since November of last year.
They both offer a surprising amount of support while walking, crouching and traversing stairs. The BSA is pretty awkward at first but you get used to it after a few seconds. Yes, I’m staring at my crotch more than usual and duck walking, but it’s a bit strange to have something between your legs while you’re trying to walk.
What you won’t see in the video is how to get the device on. It comes with shoes that are attached to the legs that, you know, you put on. There are two switches on each thigh section of the legs that you switch on and then you pull up the saddle between your legs and off you go. I won’t lie, it’s a little awkward, but you get used to it. It's also surprisingly lightweight at around 6.5 lbs.
You may or may not notice the similarities between the movement of the device and ASIMO, but it’s no coincidence. That little robot is going to save the world!
The Stride Management Assist is less awkward to maneuver with and you can really feel the support in the lower back and at the points of contact on your hamstring. The motors really whirled when going up the stairs, but wasn’t as noticeable when going down. The engineers behind the assist devices told me that support is very subtle when walking down steps so that your natural movement isn’t thrown off.
Because both models are prototypes there are some limitations on who can use them at the moment. They can accommodate persons of height up to 6'2", shoe size of 8-11 for men/9.5 – 12.5 for women and weight up to 220 lbs.
I’m still trying to digest what I just went through and I’ll have the presentation from the brains behind the project up shortly as well. The last two slides are very brief overviews of each device. Here’s a little nugget of knowledge about the walking assist devices that you probably didn’t know: over 30 prototypes have been built in the last decade.
Check back soon for the full presentation. And here's the entire presentation including the Q&A.