Toyota Motor Corp revealed a wearable robotic leg brace to help patients with serious leg injuries walk again.
Patients that are paralysed on one side of the body or suffer from an illness that affects the leg’s function could gain mobility from using the device. The robotic system, called Welwalk WW-100, is made up of a motorised mechanical frame that fits around a person’s knee and can only be worn on one leg at a time.
Toyota joined forces with a medical specialist, Eiichi Saito, and the executive vice president at Fujita Health University to develop the robotic leg.
According to Saito the device could prove to be greatly beneficial in aiding the rehabilitation progress. He says the sensitive robotic sensor in the Welwalk adjusts to the patient to provide better support than physical therapy can. The system is also useful in assisting therapists monitor a patient’s progress.
The image below shows the robotic leg brace strapped to the thigh, knee, ankle and foot. The patient’s body is supported from above by a harness, while a motor helps to bend and straighten her knee. Sensors in the device monitor her walking and adjust according to her needs.
Chief research officer, Toshiyuki Isobe told associated press that Toyota’s vision is to “deliver mobility for everyone… 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”.
Toyota plans to rent a hundred of these devices to medical facilities in Japan later this year. The once off initial fee of about R123 903.90 will be charged for the use of the robotic legs, followed by a monthly fee of approximately R44 058.24.
The Welwalk is an example of Toyota’s desire to apply robotics in medicine and social welfare. Previously, the company has debuted robots that play instruments and others that serve as conversational companions.