As the baby boomer generation ages – with the 65+ group projected to increase from 14 to 20 per cent by 2030 - a greater strain will be put on hospitals and aged-care services.
Honda is one of the companies researching assistive technology for the elderly. The Walking Assist Device imitates human movement to help the patient walk longer distances at a greater speed. The device comes as Fujistu introduces the New Generation Cane equipped with GPS, WiFi connectivity and LED lights.
The Walking Assist Device is currently leased to Japanese hospitals helping with physical therapy and rehabilitation for patients with lower limb disabilities. “We need to collect real world data to determine how this technology could be used to help an individual,” Honda’s Australia spokeswoman Melissa Cross says.
Honda’s previous gadgets include Honda’s humanoid robot ASIMO and the self-balancing one-wheeled electric vehicle UNI-CUB.
The Walking Assist Device weighs just 2.6kg and can be used on indoor or outdoor flat surfaces (except in rain). The device works as an exoskeleton-like 'belt' using a control computer that activates angle sensors to help the timing of each leg lift from the ground, extend forward and take longer strides.
So far it has been tested in seven Japanese hospitals and Honda is now inviting a broader range of Japanese hospitals to test a total of 100 units to receive further feedback. Honda Australia says there is no indication whether trials will be held in Australia.
The innovative technology comes after 14 years in development. Honda hasn’t suggested a price tag but we’re guessing it will be more than a Honda lawn mower.