A group of researchers from Shibaura Institute of Technology, Hiroshima University, and Tokyo Metropolitan College of Industrial Technology are doing R&D on a close-fitting walking aid.
This device is intended for people who can walk unaided but are uneasy about doing so, as well as for rehabilitation by hemiplegics and other people who require care.
“This device is powered by a motor. But because a heavy motor and gears could be burdensome, with this walking aid, you carry the motor, gears, computer, and battery on your back, and the driving force is transmitted using a flexible shaft made of twisted piano wire.”
The device determines the phase of walking through sole pressure sensors, so it continually checks the user’s walking rhythm.
This walking aid is controlled by combining two effects, angle control and torque compensation. It delivers a large torque by increasing the twisting of the shaft. In this way, it helps the user attain target values, which are defined as the changes in joint angle when an able-bodied person walks.
“As we tried to make this device as compact as possible, the user has to carry some of the load on their back. But because the aid is so compact the user can wear trousers over it and it’s hardly noticeable at all. The walking aid we developed before this one is more powerful, using about 600 W. That device stands up by itself, with the user inside, so it’s very easy to use. It’s very powerful, but also very conspicuous. So we have developed walking aids at both ends of the spectrum.”
The group aims to produce a clinically practical walking aid within five years.