Development of an Active Walker and its Effect
Hiroshi Kobayashi*, Takuya Hashimoto*, So Nakayama*,
and Kazutaka Irie**
*Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tokyo University of Science, 1-14-6 Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0073, Japan
**Hart Walker Japan, Co. Ltd., 75-41 Mitusawa Ogori City, Fukuoka 838-0106, Japan
In Japan alone, more than one million people have walking difficulties. The many kinds of walker being developed thus far for gait training are used by grasping the front and/or back in order to balance the body. This requires tilting the upper half of the body forward or backward, making it difficult to keep the right posture for walking. There are moreover few examples of an active walker that is used if people have no muscular strength for walking. In order to deal with these issues, we have been developing an active walker using the HartWalker which consists of a double upright knee-ankle-foot orthosis and a 4-wheeled carriage with a stem located in the center of the carriage. Since the waist of the orthosis is attached to the top of the stem, there is no risk of falling, it is possible to keep the right posture, and both hands become completely free. McKibben artificial muscles are attached to the Hart Walker in order to control the gait as an active walker. In walking experiments using a child-size doll with the same kinds of joints and weight that a human child has, we confirmed that a humanlike gait is realized by the active walker we developed. Many patients who have different kinds of disease are using it and we have confirmed that all of them can walk by using the active walker. The active walker is now commercially available.
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