Japan is no stranger to robotics. From Asimov to Gundam, hi-tech development in both real and fictional worlds is almost taken for granted. Some days, we even wake up feeling a bit disappointed that Ghost in the Shell isn’t a documentary–though even that seemingly becoming closer to reality every day.
Here’s one example of robotics enhancing the lives of stroke victims – and looking good doing it, too.
Yaskawa Electric, a company aiming to develop both robotics to help the elderly in countries with low birth rates and environmentally friendly energy resources, has debuted an “ankle-assist walking device.” The device, one part of their “2015 Vision,” uses sensors and electric motors to basically teach stroke victims and others with walking-impediments how walk again.
Relearning basic physical movements like walking can be very difficult for stroke victims, according to Yaskawa, partially because of how hard it can be to verbally describe to a patient how to walk. After all, when we were learning to get up and waddle around, it wasn’t like our parents were telling us what to do, shouting “Shift your weight onto the ball of your foot! Now lift your heel and bend your knee!”
The therapeutic devices that Yaskawa has created use actuators to “show” patients in therapy how their feet should be moving by rotating the device up and down as they walk. This physical feedback provides an accurate feel for how their bodies are supposed to be moving, helping stroke-victims and others avoid further injuries and re-learn the movements that once came naturally. One problem stroke patients face is that many do not properly lift the tips of their toes, which results in tripping and falling. A fall for someone who’s already suffered a stroke or some other physical ailment is sure to compound the problem, so quick, correct rehabilitation is vital.
The devices can be strapped on around the patient’s ordinary shoes and clothes, allowing for quick and easy attachment. Additionally, the sensors in the bottom of the devices, which look like giant anime boots to us, can accurately detect if the wearer is walking correctly.
Starting from the left, the patient is meant to be: 1) Putting their foot down, heel first, 2) laying their toes down, 3) raising their heels with their toes still on the ground, 4) lifting their toes up, 5) moving the entire leg forward and then back to the first step again.
The company currently has the device in a number of clinical trials where it seems to be showing promising results. Hopefully it works as expected and will soon be on the market helping speed up people’s recovery!
If you’re interested in learning more about Yaskawa Electric, who will be celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2015, be sure to check out their English homepage.
You can check out a video demonstration of the device below. The explanation is in Japanese, though still it gives you an idea of how they work in practice.
Source: Yaskawa Electric
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