Honda's first foray into robotising old peoples' haunches looked pretty tame, but this new one, on which geriatrics are supposed to mount like some sort of meat trophy, feels like a glimpse into a horrible, dystopian future where up is down, right is wrong and grandmas and grandpas amble through Sears on mechanised rectal steeds instead of walkers. The machine, which I'm 90% sure is just the missing half of this Battle Droid from Attack of the Clones, is more a passive support device than it is a set of active robot limbs, though it does have a small electric motor.
Details are a bit sparse for the time being, but Honda claims that the legs transparently reduce the strains of walking, standing and crouching, and should be "as easy to use as a bicycle." The AP reporter who got to test the robo-legs had this to say about them:
This reporter found it does take some getting used to. But I could sense how it supported my moves, pushing up on my bottom when I squatted and pushing at my soles to help lift my legs when I walked.
Uses will not be limited to assisting mobility for seniors. Honda claims that one of the most practical uses for the legs would be at factories, where workers may have to assume repetitive, uncomfortable postures. The device is still in its experimental stages, but Honda plans to start testing early models on its factory workers as soon as next month. [Honda via AP]