As the company providing Executive Leadership for the SAE 2015 World Congress & Exhibition in Detroit, Michigan, April 21-23, Honda and its partners are providing a series of brief updates leading up to the event. The following is a blog post from Jeffrey Smith, assistant vice president of North American Corporate Affairs & Communications, Honda North America.
At the upcoming SAE 2015 World Congress and Exhibition, April 21-23 in Detroit, we’re excited to demonstrate some of our pre-eminent Honda Robotics technologies – all designed to assist and enhance human mobility.
The Honda corporate objective “to be a company society wants to exist” offers a framework to understand why we are so deeply involved in experimental research to create devices that will help counteract the forces of time, nature, or accident that impede the human ability to move freely. We are making promising progress in this incredibly challenging field toward Honda’s desire to enhance and facilitate the joy of human mobility – be it driving, riding, walking, boating, or flying. We challenge ourselves to think of mobility in broad, innovative terms—and to create products that may someday help people.
A Helpful Humanoid Robot
When Honda engineers set out to create a walking robot in 1986, they studied human and animal walking habits, research that took them out of the lab and to places like the zoo. It was extremely challenging to develop a machine to replicate the complexities of human walking and balance, but after some 15 years of research, ASIMO was born.
Today, ASIMO, Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, can walk and run forward and backward, continuously changing directions. It can respond with stability to sudden movement, smoothly climb stairs, dance, hop, avoid objects, and even go online to check the weather. We hope that someday, ASIMO can be of assistance to people with limited movement, or who are confined to a wheelchair or bed by assisting with a variety of daily tasks.
With an interest in using our advancements in robotics technologies to help people, we also began to explore the creation of other types of devices to mobilize people and enhance their independence. After more than a decade of research, we are proud to have developed both the experimental UNI-CUB and the Walking Assist Device, both lightweight devices that we hope will someday make a positive impact on human lives.
The experimental UNI-CUB, which some call a self-balancing unicycle, actually features two wheels. The front is an omnidirectional driving wheel, and the smaller rear wheel moves laterally to facilitate turning. This system allows the rider, sitting on a seat, to control speed, move in any direction, and turn and stop, all by simply shifting his or her weight. Since the rider can freely move forward, backward, side-to-side, and diagonally, he or she can quickly and easily maneuver among other people.
The Walking Assist Device is designed to support people who have weakened leg muscles, but who can still walk. Worn similarly to a belt around the hip and thigh, and weighing just about five pounds, the device utilizes a miniature motor to help lift each leg at the thigh as it moves forward and backward. In turn, this helps lengthen the user’s stride, making it easier to walk.
We believe that our research on these and other Honda Robotics experimental devices may one day add value to human mobility and will be useful to people and society. We are excited to be able to showcase these challenges at the 2015 SAE World Congress.