Honda has developed a walking and lifting-assist device that supports the user's body weight, reducing load on the knees and feet, and put it into limited use in its Saitama factory.

It's not a car, but it is significant mobility news. Honda has developed a second-generation experimental body weight support device, designed to assist the user's legs when ascending and descending stairs or in a semi-crouched position. The device's real-world effectiveness will be tested at Honda's Saitama factory starting this month.

Designed for able-bodied users, the device fits close to the legs like a chair, assisting the knees in supporting the body's weight. Rather than requiring straps to attach to the body, the user simply wears a pair of shoes and raises the seat into a comfortable position. Once in place, the compact unit's seat and frame follow the movement of the operator's body and legs. The device's lifting force is directed toward the user's center of gravity, rather than straight up, allowing more natural movement and support.

The device is a practical outgrowth of Honda's robotics research (most notably the ASIMO robot), and it could be used to reduce fatigue in factory and warehouse settings. Consumer availability is still some distance off, of course.


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