tech

Japanese researchers build robotic tail to keep elderly upright

12 Comments

Millions of years after the ancestors of humans evolved to lose their tails, a research team at Keio University have built a robotic one they say could help unsteady elderly people keep their balance.

Dubbed Arque, the gray one-meter device mimics tails such as those of cheetahs and other animals used to keep their balance while running and climbing, according to the Keio team.

"The tail keeps balance like a pendulum," said Junichi Nabeshima, a graduate student and researcher at the university's Embodied Media Project, displaying the robotic tail attached to his waist with a harness. "When a human tilts their body one way, the tail moves in the opposite direction."

As Japan grays it is leading the industrial world in seeking ways to keep its aging population mobile and productive.

While other nations have turned to immigrant workers to replenish a shrinking workforce, less welcoming Japan has focused more on a technological solution.

The robotic tail, which uses four artificial muscles and compressed air to move in eight directions, will remain in the lab for now, however, as researchers look for ways to make it more flexible, Nabeshima said.

Apart from helping the elderly get around, the team are also looking at industrial applications for the artificial appendage, such as a balance aid for warehouse workers carrying heavy loads.

"I think it would be nice to incorporate this further developed prosthetic tail into daily life, when one seeks a little more help balancing," Nabeshima said.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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Great work!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The last of the dinosaurs from Kasumigaseki Jurassic Park will be the first to order tails and perhaps old Trumpy could use one, too, because when standing with his protruding bulk he often looks like he is going to keel over onto his face.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I'm sure some cos-players would like to have a version of this.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

While other nations have turned to immigrant workers to replenish a shrinking workforce, less welcoming Japan has focused more on a technological solution

Good propaganda, I can only assume this article is meant for a foreign audience to show how technology savvy Japan is.

So, all the filipino, indonesian and vietnamese care workers imported to work as caregivers are not immigrants.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

drluciferToday  10:08 am JST

Good propaganda, I can only assume this article is meant for a foreign audience to show how technology savvy Japan is.

So, all the filipino, indonesian and vietnamese care workers imported to work as caregivers are not immigrants.

Yes, never mind about the technology that can augment elderly people who have lost control of balance etc, lets cast it as 'doom and gloom, big bad Japan' instead.

I think this is brilliant technology, not just for for keeping the elderly mobile (assuming they can still walk unassisted) it has recreational uses as well with VR as shown in the video. At the very least it could prevent some accidents from occurring.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It's impressive technology but it looks seriously strange, repellent even. I guess it's hard for those of us who aren't (yet) physically impaired to say what we'd do if we had a mobility problem, but my guess is that despite its functionality, in its current format this is going to meet a lot of resistance from the elderly market it's supposedly aimed at.

Cosplayers and younger people wanting to make some kind of alt-fashion statement, though, might love it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

For some reason I envision a train car crowded with elderly passengers all swishing their tails like irate cats. It is not a comforting vision.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's 3D printed LOL. I can make one at home! :) The real issue isn't balance but pain and joint damage.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The real issue isn't balance but pain and joint damage.

Yeah, it's when range of motion and balance go, that people start to become trapped in their bodies, and age really kicks in. Falling and breaking something as an elderly person is often the beginning of the end.

This is why activities like Pilates or yoga are really good. They build strength and improve balance, which keeps people more mobile for longer, resulting in better quality of life.

As we get older it's important to keep both our minds and our bodies fit.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Can we have ears to that respond to emotion? How do I wag my tail when I'm excited? Cute cat fur to go over?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Charlie sommers:

The tails will likely get crushed and trampled in the crowded trains.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Walking down the isle of a shop will lead to utter destruction from that swinging robotic tail.

And what about the basics of simply sitting down ? It's a nice idea, but practicality ? ASynchronized spinning gyroscopes in a belt may be a better bet for stability than having a Dinosaur tail. But I guess Researchers need to do funded Research, even if some ideas are practically duds off the drawing board.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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