Toyota robot helps paralysed people walk
Toyota is making a robot commercially available for the first time to help people overcome mobility issues and lead independent lives.
A motorised mechanical frame can be attached to the legs of patients who have suffered lower body paralysis due to a stroke or other ailments.
The robotic leg brace is part of Toyota’s Welwalk WW-1000 system that enables patients to practise walking on a special treadmill.
Results from a clinical research program involving patients and healthcare professionals indicated the robot has the potential to help with lower limb recovery.
It offers a range of rehabilitation support functions based on motor learning theory, enabling doctors to adjust the difficulty level to suit each patient and to provide feedback about an individual’s gait characteristics.
Its simple construction and design makes it easy to fit and operate, with functions controlled using a central touch panel.
Approved and certified as a medical device, Toyota plans to rent 100 of the robotic leg braces to medical establishments in Japan from autumn this year.
The leg brace is one of a series of robots Toyota is developing through a Partner Robot program that draws on its vehicle production and development technologies which have included industrial robots since the 1980s.
Partner robots are designed to support and co-exist with people, helping everyone – particularly the growing number of senior citizens – enjoy freedom of movement while providing support for their carers.
Toyota, which believes mobility is about much more than cars, began developing rehabilitation robots for medical support in late 2007, working with the Fujita Health University Hospital in Toyoake, Japan.
Pilot testing was carried out at the hospital from 2012, leading to the installation of walk training assist robots in 23 medical facilities in Japan since 2014.
Toyota has previously 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.