VSL:SCIENCE // Moving one step closer to ‘Robocop’

Honda’s “walking assist device” may look a bit funny. But the invention promises great things for people who have trouble walking. And given the world’s aging population — and the 17 million Americans who have difficulties getting around — the potential market is growing quickly.

Honda’s prototype, which is modeled on the company’s ASIMO robot, consists of a pair of narrow, lightly motorized legs, which contract and extend in response to signals sent from the wearer’s shoes; a saddle helps support the body’s weight. The device appears to allow for a remarkable variety of movements, requires no straps, goes on and off easily, and weighs just 14 pounds (battery and shoes included). As of now, the saddle looks a bit wide to us — but the company’s definitely onto something.

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