Honda R&D Americas has been studying and working on various walking devices since 1999, and the results have been impressive. In addition to creating its futuristic independent Asimo robot, Honda has used what it's learned and applied it to humans who do not have full mobility. In the past, Honda's Walking Assist device has been used by those who have suffered a stroke, but new research hopes to apply the technology to people with Parkinson's disease.
Honda announced this month that it is collaborating with Ohio State University (OSU) to conduct a Phase 2 randomized controlled trial. During the eight-week study, the safety, practicality, and helpfulness of the Walking Assist device will be assessed on people who live with Parkinson's. The Michael J. Fox Foundation backed the research with a grant to fund the study.
"Many people with Parkinson's disease experience gait and balance issues, but there are few treatment options that fully alleviate these challenges," Associate Director at MJFF Jamie Hamilton, PhD, said in the release. "This project has the potential to address this unmet need and improve quality-of-life for Parkinson's patients."
As seen in the demonstration video below, the equipment works somewhat like a scaled-down version of a mech robot suit. It attaches to the hips and on the legs near the knees and aids stability and balance while walking by keeping the legs working in symmetry. Training with the device can help the muscles learn the movements while also strengthening the person using it.
The research will be done at OSU's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Starting in early 2019 Dr. Anne Kloos and Dr. Deb Kegelmeyer will lead the study with the goals of learning long-term and short-term affects on walking efficiency. As of now, there are no plans to sell the device at a commercial level.