Toyota: Not Just Cars

November 2, 2011 at 8:16 pm Leave a comment

“Help paralyzed patients walk or balance and help their caretakers gently transport them between locations. Commercialize the products sometime after 2013.”

This was Toyota’s objective as it launched a line of four robots at a Tokyo event on Tuesday. While the healthcare industry differs vastly from the automotive industry, Toyota is not the first automobile company to enter into the healthcare industry. Honda has already created a robot called Asimo that was designed to assist with walking rehabilitation.

One of the robots that Toyota unveiled uses a variety of sensors to detect patients’ intention to walk and guide their strides. The robot, called the Walk Training Assist robot, is mounted to a paralyzed leg. Walk Training Assist detects hip movement through thigh and foot sensors. Once movement is detected, it swings the knee and move the leg forward to facilitate walking.

In contrast Toyota’s Independent Walk Assist is designed for walking training. While the robot does foster a movement similar to the Walking Training Assist, the Independent Walk Assist can also support a patient’s weight. The robot tracks the patient’s progress and can be adjusted to progressively support less weight. The progress tracking robot also monitors key metrics which assist physicians in tracking patient progress.

An interesting rehabilitation training robot which Toyota demoed at the event was the Balance Training Assist. The robot is a two-wheeled balancing game allowing patients to play tennis, soccer, or basketball. Patients shift their weight to interact with in the game and develop key balancing abilities.

Toyota’s fourth robot unveiled at the showcase is intended not only to assist patients, but also caregivers. The Patient Transfer Assist has weight-supporting arms and a mobile platform to assist caregivers and patients with mobility. The machine is supposed to create an experience similar to being carried by a person.

Overall, I think it is very interesting that Toyota has entered the healthcare industry with their technology knowledge from the automobile industry. As more technologies converge in the ever changing world of today, I am sure we will seem more companies use their skills and knowledge in vastly different industries.

I hope you enjoyed the article!

– Paul

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