For those with weakened leg muscles who don't need or want to use wheelchairs, there's a strange-looking new mobility device on the market, and Honda is its maker. As the Japanese multinational corporation (and the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles) writes on its Bodyweight Support Assist product page, "Most people think of Honda as an automobile company. But our main focus is and always has been human mobility."
Potential users can be assured that what Honda didn't spend on a catchy name campaign it did invest in the design. The Bodyweight Support Assist device reduces the load on leg muscles and joints by having users semi-crouch on a seat (that appears to serve the additional function of a jockstrap) with a small frame and shoes. The assisting force that comes from the user's own legs is directed toward that user's center of gravity, resulting in near-effortless balance in all sorts of positions and during all sorts of activities.
When the device first appeared on YouTube in November 2008, replete with a soft porn track in the background presumably intended to simultaneously relax and excite viewers, the general reaction was that the thing might just be too weird to ever be able to catch on. (And really, you do have to see it to believe it.)
But after testing its device, Honda has decided to go for it, and showcases the Bodyweight Support Assist in the National Design Triennial "Why Design Now?" exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York from May 2010 through January 2011.
Only time will tell if this thing ever takes off. But we can all rest assured that, in the beginning at least, seeing this thing in action will be its own reward.