Robo-tail to keep oldies upright
Japanese researchers have built a robotic tail to keep elderly people from falling over.
The new device dubbed ‘Arque’ by its designers at Japan’s Keio University mimics tails such as those of cheetahs and other animals, which are used to keep balance while running and climbing.
“The tail keeps balance like a pendulum,” said Junichi Nabeshima, a graduate student and researcher at the university’s Embodied Media Project, seen displaying the robotic tail attached to his waist in the video below.
“When a human tilts their body one way, the tail moves in the opposite direction.”
Japan is a world leader in finding ways to keep an aging population mobile and productive.
With a reticence to bring in immigrant workers to replenish a shrinking workforce, Japan has focused more on a technological solution.
The robotic tail uses four artificial muscles and compressed air to move in various directions.
It looks like it will be a few years before they are strapped to anyone outside the lab, with researchers still looking for ways to make it more flexible, Nabeshima said.
The team believes there may be some industrial applications for the artificial appendage too, such as a balance aid for workers carrying heavy loads.
“I think it would be nice to incorporate this further developed prosthetic tail into daily life, when one seeks a little more help balancing,” Nabeshima said.