Asimo, Honda’s humanoid robot, gathered international attention for his ability to walk, run, stand on one leg, and even walk up and down stairs.
Now, Honda is taking Asimo’s robotic technology and using it to improve the lives of seniors. Honda has paired up with Japan’s National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology to provide their robotic walking aid, the Stride Management assist device (SMad), which aims to help the elderly walk.
Senior Health Depends on the Ability to Exercise
Exercise is crucial to senior health. Physical activity improves the immune system, prevents illness, and can bolster mood. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease.
However, despite the importance of exercise, even the simplest form of exercise (walking) is out of reach for many seniors. For those with reduced walking ability, devices like Honda’s Stride Management Assist Device can lead to personal empowerment and increased physical independence.
How Does the SMad Work?
The SMad is a lightweight, wearable device with two motors that attach to each hip and help lift the leg. By analyzing the existing ability of the walker’s stride, the SMad boosts the wearer’s leg to an appropriate level by giving extra power to the thighs. The device also monitor’s the wearer’s heartbeat and makes adjustments accordingly. This ensures the wearer doesn’t overexert themselves.
Honda’s mobility device weighs 6.2lb. including the rechargeable lithium batteries. The battery charge lasts for 1-2 hours for an individual walking at 2.8mph. This is only slightly below the average pedestrian walking speed of 3.1mph. Tests have shown that the SMad can help maintain and even restore walking function in some people.
The Future of Service Robots in Healthcare
Until recently, funding for the research and development of service robots has been minimal, but the upcoming need for the technology is growing. Globally, the number of older persons is expected to reach 72.1 million by 2030 – nearly double the elderly population of 2000. Humanity’s increased longevity is at the heart of the push for advancement in healthcare service robotics.
While autonomous service robots are not in the near future – and are unlikely to replace human healthcare providers anytime soon – robotic assistance can improve the quality of life for seniors, the disabled, and those requiring physical therapy.
What’s more, with rapidly rising healthcare costs, many anticipate that the cost-benefit of service robots will be quite positive. As the technology progresses, costs are likely to0 decease to a point where the cost of one SMad will be less than one year’s salary for a full-time healthcare worker.
However, cost-benefit calculations aisde, Honda’s practical application of Asimo’s technology is exciting. SMad illustrates that dreams of humanoid robots aren’t just sci-fi fantasy – there is real value to humanity here.
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Author Gib Goodrich operates HondaPartsOnline.net, a website that provides genuine Honda parts at wholesale prices.