Toyota robotic leg brings new hope to paralysed users

Toyota have just unveiled their new invention, and it’s one which could change the lives of so many people.

The Welwalk WW-1000 is a robot leg which offers both support and assistance to those who have been partially paralysed.

Toyota Leg Brace 1

The device is being descried as a system which ‘uses robotics’ as opposed to being a standalone robot itself. In an article just published by Associated Press, the details of the system are outlined and explained.

This is not a new area of research for the automotive company. Toyota’s research CTO, James Kuffner, has been a longtime advocate of robotics; especially those which can be used to enrich the lives of others. When speaking about the benefits of self-driving cars at San Jose’s RoboBusiness conference in September 2016, Kuffner made the following statement:

Transportation has always been about freedom and mobility, and people aging and losing their ability to drive means that they have less freedom and less mobility,” he said. “So one of the good outcomes of having autonomy for vehicles is people can suddenly recover freedom of mobility for people who otherwise cannot drive.”

With the Welwalk WW-1000, Toyota have taken that ethos of accessibility and mobility and have adapted it to suit a very specific purpose. Japan holds a very high stroke rate (as high as 13.5% of all deaths recorded in 2014 were due to stroke) and, as a result, many who survive are left either partially or fully paralysed. Just as Hyundai have been developing a supportive exoskeleton to help the differently abled, now Toyota have stepped up the game with this invention.

Toyota Leg Brace 2

Executive VP of the Fujita Health University, Eiichi Saito, was involved with the development of the robotic aide. Dr Saito explained how the robotic leg helps ‘just enough’ to assist rehabilitation and development.

“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.” (Sc. AP).

These developments offer hope and a brighter future for a great number of people. AP added that; “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.”

Images (c) (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
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