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News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

Meet your ankle's new robotic best friend

•, Colin Druce-McFadden
  Developed by Yaskawa Electric, the somewhat mundane sounding Ankle Walking Assist Device (AWAD) just might be the first bit of robotic exoskeleton tech to hit the mass market.

Aimed at keeping the elderly active, the AWAD system consists of two robo-boots and a waist-mounted battery pack. The boots assist their wearer by sensing the moment their heel hits the ground and then giving a small robotic boost of strength. This assures that the wearer not only maintains balance, but keeps on moving forward at a respectable pace. The system will also be adjustable, depending upon the amount of assistance a given wearer needs.

That probably doesn't mean that you can use an AWAD to give yourself cheetah speed or super stomping power or anything. But there will be a whole lot of older folks who can get to the grocery store and back a lot quicker, so that's pretty cool. Yaskawa is planning to get the AWAD system onto the market by 2015 — not bad for the company's first foray into exoskeletons.

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