Using Technology to Improve Our Lives: the ‘Walking Assist Device’

2436045994_5072442046_oWe believe in progress. This belief is embedded in the DNA of our modern civilization. Without this idea of progress dictating and governing our lives our world would have felt much less secure and stable. It is when people feel secure that they become determined. And when people become determined they tend to do great things. Fear derives from insecurity and greatness from the belief that our world always moves forward despite the obvious setbacks and any possible misfortunes.

Progress sounds great as a general concept, but the problem is that we need to limit down the meaning of it. We want progress, but do we want it at all costs? Let me answer to this briefly: NO! The idea of progress must serve the interest of human beings. Technological advances can mean nothing, or can even create troubles, if they’re not directed in such a way as to make the world a better and more comfortable place to live in.

Hopefully for us, some people want to use technology to make our lives better. The Japanese motor company Honda is one of these companies. What better proof is there than Honda’s Walking Assist Device?

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Honda has been experimenting with the Walking Assist Device for the last fourteen years. The time has come, though, for this ingenious device to be tested in the real world and at a large scale. One hundred of Honda’s exoskeletons will be rented to hospitals around Japan in what could prove to be a decisive moment towards a future where diseases will scare us less.

There is a significant number of people worldwide suffering from walking disabilities, with strokes being the leasing cause for this painful reality. Only in the U.S. almost 800.000 people are forced to deal with the daily anxiety and pain that walking disabilities bring to the life of an unfortunate individual.

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Honda recently announced that a clinical research study will be organized for the first time in the U.S. in order to measure the scientific assessment of the Walking Assist Device. This is undoubtedly an important step that might lead to a further integration of exoskeletons on the market.

It’s not the first time that Honda experiments with such devices. The company’s Bodyweight Support Exoskeleton is yet another example that Honda cares about the future of technology at the service of citizens.  This device could find use within a military context but, and maybe even more importantly, it might become a very helpful device for the workers of this world as well.

Asimo Robot at a Honda factory, 2011

Asimo Robot, 2011

Honda’s trip to the future of technology might have as well started with Asimo robot, which has been helping us to study better the human walking. But it is only now with the Walking Assist device that things might have reached a crucial turning point, as Honda’s 2.6kg device gives hope to millions of people around the world that have been deprived by the simple pleasure of walking this life. The device will work with a lithium battery that will allow a one-hour walk to its owner. In addition, the device it will be visible and water resistant.

It is possible that you might agree with me that there must be many reasons to like the Japanese technicians and researchers. Their dedication and perfectionism must be impressive characteristics of professionals who might feel proud of their history concerning the invention of robots and devices.  However, they might just as well feel proud for the… future! How can one be proud of its future when this is still unknown? Well, if you are a researcher or technical engineer in the field, especially in Japan, you have something more than a promise that the future, in terms of technological innovation at least, will be bright: you have the Japanese longstanding commitment to perfectionism and progress…

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