In Japan, off the Drawing Board and into the Home

Since writing a 3-part series of articles on college students who were designing technologies for older adults earlier this year, I haven’t seen much on the topic. However, this week SFGate carried an article on Tools in Aging Japan: Robotic spines & Segway-like stools, and it contained several familiar-sounding products. The video phone and the exoskeleton reminded me of projects at the University of Cincinnati, which I wrote about for Aging Today. As for Honda’s “personal mobility device,” well, that was new to me;  it’s much cooler-looking than ride-on scooters, but requires more balance.

A resident of Hinoemata, Japan, uses a video phone to communicate with a nurse.

A resident of Hinoemata, Japan, uses a video phone to communicate with a nurse. [from Tools in Aging Japan: Robotic spines & Segway-like stools]

David R. Baker writes about an NTT project that allows a public health nurse to connect with residents in a remote mountain village. The nurse can monitor their blood pressure, which is wirelessly transmitted to her, and communicate with them via video phone. An NTT manager is quoted as saying that younger people already know how to use the technology, but the company’s aim is to develop “this kind of easy system for the elderly,” such as those who wish to remain in their own homes, in their own villages.

Muscle Suit (Tokyo University of Science, and Innophys)

Muscle Suit (Tokyo University of Science, and Innophys) [image: http://www.damngeeky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/The-Muscle-Suit-by-Tokyo-University-of-Science.jpg]

Another product is a partial exoskeleton, developed by Prof. Hiroshi Kobayashi at the Tokyo University of Science. The wearable device, which looks like a “rigid aluminum backpack frame,” provides extra support for people who have trouble bending over and lifting objects; caregivers could also use it to help lift people into and out of baths and chairs. Dr. Kobayashi has formed a company named Innophys to develop and market this idea.

Honda's Uni-Cub Personal Mobility Device

Honda’s Uni-Cub Personal Mobility Device [image: http://world.honda.com/module/UNI-CUB/image/bnr/2013/bnrL_c131114.jpg]

And finally, the article presents Honda’s Uni-Cub, described as a sit-down Segway (I think it looks like a robotic penguin). The hands-free device is guided by simply leaning in the desired direction. It’s intended to be used by people with limited mobility who could use some help with extensive walking.

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