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Toyota plans nursing robots for aging Japan

Toyota's Assist machines are designed to ease the burden on caregivers and help people with mobility.


Toyota wants to help Japan's aging population with machines than can help people move around with a leg brace and a personal transporter.

The Walk Assist Robot is made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic and attaches to the legs of patients who have suffered paralysis to help them walk.

Weighing 7.7 pounds, the device has a position sensor on the thigh area, a pressure sensor on the sole, and a knee actuator that moves the brace based on data from the sensors.

A timing-lock mechanism ensures that the brace doesn't bend when the foot is planted. The device can also be used for physiotherapy when patients are relearning to walk, according to Toyota.

If the Walk Assist Robot looks like part of Cyberdyne's HAL robot suit, then Toyota's Care Assist Robot takes a page from Riken's Riba person mover.

The Care Assist Robot doesn't look like a giant teddy bear, but it's also designed to help reduce the burden on caregivers who have to move bedridden patients.


The wheelchair-like device has a power-assist dolly that can move people to and from a bed, as well as the bathroom and other nearby destinations. As with Riba, a human caregiver is still required to help guide the machine.

The caregiver guides a large arm that supports the patient, taking the weight off his or her back.

"The patient's stress, burden and anxiety is reduced by being gently enveloped in the holding device," Toyota says.

Another device under development is the Balance Practice Assist. It's basically a two-wheeled Segway-like stand that can help people with balance problems.

Users stand on the machine and play sports video games on a screen in front of them while trying to keep their balance. Naturally, a caregiver has to stand by just in case.

Toyota hopes to release the machines in 2013 at the earliest.