Toyota shows robotic leg brace to help paralyzed people walk

Toyota shows robotic leg brace to help paralyzed people walk

TOKYO — Toyota is introducing a wearable robotic leg brace designed to help partially paralyzed people walk.

The Welwalk WW-1000 system is made up of a motorized mechanical frame that fits on a person’s leg from the knee down. The patients can practice walking wearing the robotic device on a special treadmill that can support their weight.

Toyota Motor Corp. demonstrated the equipment for reporters at its Tokyo headquarters on Wednesday.

One hundred such systems will be rented to medical facilities in Japan later this year, Toyota said. The service entails a one-time initial charge of 1 million yen ($9,000) and a 350,000 yen ($3,200) monthly fee.

The gadget is designed to be worn on one leg at a time for patients severely paralyzed on one side of the body due to a stroke or other ailments, Eiichi Saito, a medical doctor and executive vice-president at Fujita Health University, explained.

The university joined with Toyota in developing the device.

A person demonstrating it strapped the brace to her thigh, knee, ankle and foot and then showed how it is used to practice walking on the treadmill. Her body was supported from above by a harness and the motor helped to bend and straighten her knee. Sensors in the device can monitor the walking and adjust quickly to help out. Medical staff control the system through a touch panel screen.

Japanese automakers have been developing robotics both for manufacturing and other uses. Honda Motor Co.’s Asimo humanoid can run and dance, pour a drink and carry on simple conversations, while WelWalk is more of a system that uses robotics than a stand-alone robot.

Given how common paralysis due to strokes is in fast-aging Japan, Toyota’s device could be very helpful, Saito said. He said patients using it can recover more quickly as the sensitive robotic sensor in Welwalk fine-tunes the level of support better than a human therapist can.

“This helps just barely enough,” said Saito, explaining that helping too much can slow progress in rehabilitation.

The field of robotic aids for walking and rehabilitation is growing quickly. A battery-powered wearable exoskeleton made by Israeli manufacturer ReWalk Robotics enables people relying on a wheelchair to stand upright and walk.

Such systems also can aid therapists in monitoring a patient’s progress, Luke Hares, chief technology officer at Cambridge Medical Robotics in Britain, said in a phone interview.

“They can be so much more precise,” he said.

Previously, Toyota has shown robots that play the violin and trumpet. It plans to start sales in Japan of a tiny boy-like robot for conversational companionship. It is also investing in artificial intelligence and developing self-driving vehicles.

Toshiyuki Isobe, Toyota’s chief officer for research, said Welwalk reflects the company’s desire to apply robotics in medicine and other social welfare areas, not just entertainment. The company also has an R2-D2-like machine, called the Human Support Robot, whose mechanical arm can help bed-ridden people pick things up.

“Our vision is about trying to deliver mobility for everybody,” said Isobe. “We have been developing industrial robotics for auto manufacturing, and we are trying to figure out how we can use that technology to fill social needs and help people more.”

___

Yuri Kageyama can be reached at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama

Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Lines open for OSNS Share a Smile Telethon now underway

The 38th annual OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre telethon on

Counsellor sees need for treatment centre regulations

An addictions counsellor sees need for regulations

Biosphere designation boosts national park drive

Certification outlines conservation as key part of sustainable tourism development

Visiting Vees pound West Kelowna Warriors

The Vees got hat tricks from two players en route to an 11-3 win

‘Listen to your gut’ urges injured skier

Mike Shaw was told he’d never walk again after an accident four years ago, but he defied the odds

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

Boomer radio expands

Kelowna resident Allen Holender continues to expand his network

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

Biosphere designation boosts national park drive

Certification outlines conservation as key part of sustainable tourism development

Pine beetles from Jasper National Park moving into commercial forest

In 2014, beetle activity went from a few spots around Jasper’s townsite to rampant

VIDEO: Tragically Hip members, Alex Trebek receive Order of Canada

Newest recipients join 6,897 Canadians such as Christine Sinclair, Graham Greene and Mark Messier

AC/DC’s Malcolm Young dies at 64

‘Malcolm was a songwriter, guitarist, performer, producer and visionary who inspired many.’

‘I will now live in consistent fear’: Allan Schoenborn granted escorted leaves

The Merritt man was deemed not criminally responsible in the killing of his three children in 2008

Guns and drugs seized in Kamloops RCMP blitz

Kamloops Mounties and the gang unit seize drugs and make arrests in two-day blitz

Most Read