Most people think of Honda as a car and motorcycle company, but they view themselves as a mobility company. That’s why, nearly 20 years ago, an internal team of engineers was formed to help a subset of people who are functionally immobile: Stroke victims. By adapting the technology from their experimental bipedal Asimo robot, they reasoned, they could help people with damaged or impaired motor functions walk again.
While the engineers reportedly produced some 30 prototypes, “Grossly simplified, the Honda researchers split walking into two problems: fighting against gravity to maintain standing and generating a force to move forward,” according to Exoskeleton Report. So the two prototypes shown to the public each tackled one of these issues. The Bodyweight Support Assist helps with the first problem, and was also envisioned to be able to help reduce strain on factory workers:
The second approach, then called Stride Management Assist, tackles the second issue:
That was just about ten years ago. In the time since, the first prototype has disappeared from the news, whereas the second prototype went into trials about five years ago at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Then, in 2015, Honda began producing that second design, rebranding it the Walking Assist Device, and leasing it to roughly 250 facilities in Japan. And earlier this year, the company obtained approval in the EU to list it as a medical device, so we assume Europe will see them as well.
At press time there was no word on whether it will become commercially available in the ‘States.