Yaskawa Electric has developed an ankle assist walking device, to help people who’ve had a stroke to walk more easily, by encouraging a longer and more confident gait.
“What we’ve done is, we’ve attached a motor to the type of brace that’s usually used in rehabilitation after a stroke. The motor produces the force needed to raise and lower the toes, so the wearer can tread more strongly. There’s a sensor in the shoe, to detect when the wearer is treading, and by raising the ankle in time with that movement, this enables the wearer to take bigger steps.”
“The human foot uses a phenomenon called the stretch reflex. When the ankle is raised, muscles behind the knee reflex. When the ankle is bent by the assister, the knee bends naturally, and the knee’s bending raises the thigh. By skillfully utilizing the physiology of the foot muscles like this, we aim to raise the foot effectively, just by bending the ankle. Also, raising the toes is the most important aspect of helping stroke patients take bigger steps. So, with our system, we assist the ankle alone.”
Yaskawa Electric is currently undergoing preliminary patient trials which have shown that the device has an immediate positive effect. Next, they will run formal clinical trials to confirm the therapeutic effects, with the release of a commercial version slated for around 2015.