We've seen exoskeleton suits designed to grant their wearers super-human strength, but they tend to look somewhat obvious. Fine if you're an attention-seeking superhero, but less of a selling point if you're an elderly person with mobility problems. Honda have thankfully come to the rescue, though, with their 'Walking Assist Device'; worn as a straightforward belt with thigh straps, the 2.8kg unit promises to lengthen a user's natural stride by supplementing their own muscle power.
Currently a prototype, the project has been underway since 1999 and is being described as at the "feasibility stage". It's based on similar research to that which taught ASIMO, Honda's bipedal robot, how to walk without (normally) falling flat on its perspex face. An onboard processor measures feedback from hip-angle sensors and augment with power from the flat, brushless motors accordingly.
Honda is demonstrating the 'Walking Assist Device' at the Barrier Free fair 2008, which apparently showcases "Equipments & Rehabilitation for the Elderly & the Disabled". It's currently underway at Intex Osaka. Most excitingly, unlike many prototypes we see, delegates and visitors will actually get the opportunity to try the device on for themselves. Hopefully Honda has arranged suitable security on hand, in case a newly-sprightly pensioner decides to run off with the gadget.
[via Born Rich]