Honda bags EU nod for exoskeleton-style walking device

Honda's Walking Assist Device (Honda)

Honda has picked up a CE mark for its walking assistance device. The clearance follows almost 20 years of work by the car manufacturer to get the exoskeleton-style device ready for widespread use.

Building the Asimo robot project's research on human walking, Honda designed the device to help people who had suffered from strokes and other conditions that affect mobility. The 6-pound device works by feeding data from hip angle sensors into an onboard computer, which then activates motors to increase the wearer’s stride and aid their timing.

The device has some limitations. The operating time per charge clocks in at about 60 minutes and the device is only suitable for use on flat, dry surfaces. These limitations are shared by some of Honda’s competitors in the increasingly congested walking assistance device sector.

Honda’s entry into the European market comes a little more than two years after Parker Hannifin picked up a CE mark for its device Indego. Parker Hannifin has since picked up an FDA nod for the device. Other companies active in the field include ReWalk Robotics, Keeogo and Ekso Bionics. Each has a slightly different take on the question of how to use exoskeletons to aid mobility.

For Honda, the CE mark is a big step forward in the long history of its walking device. Honda first demoed the technology in 2008, at which time it had already spent nine years on the project.

Over the following years, Honda passed commercial milestones in its native Japan—where it is used at 250 sites—and got a U.S. clinical trial underway. But it shared little news about its progress in Europe.