Toyota is making a robot commercially available for the first time with the launch of a system design to help people with mobility issues lead independent lives.
Its commitment to developing Rehabilitation Assist Robots has reached an important milestone with the announcement the equipment will be available to rent by medical facilities from autumn this year.
Toyota’s Welwalk WW-1000 robot is designed to help with the rehabilitation of people with lower limb paralysis as a result of strokes, or other causes. It offers a range of different functions based on motor learning theory, with levels of difficulty adjustable to suit each patient’s needs. It will also monitor and provide feedback on the characteristics of the patient’s gait.
The robot has a simple construction and is designed to be easy to fit and operate, with functions controlled using a central touch panel.
Toyota installed its first industrial robots back in the 1980s, since then it has applied vehicle production and developmental technologies to a Partner Robot programme, in which robots take on the role of companions that support and co-exist with people.
For Toyota, mobility is about much more than cars, it is about helping everyone enjoy the freedom of movement. In line with this vision, and taking into consideration Japan’s growing population of older people, Toyota is developing Partner Robot technologies that address four main issues: Senior Life Support, Medical Support, Personal Life Support and Welfare Support. The aim is to help elderly people live more independent lives and provide support to their carers.
Medical support programme
Toyota started work on developing rehabilitation robots for medical support at the end of 2007, working with the Fujita Health University Hospital in Toyoake, Japan. Pilot testing was carried out at the hospital from 2012, leading to the installation of Walk Training Assist Robots in 23 medical facilities in Japan since 2014.
Feedback from patients and healthcare professionals involved in the clinical research programme indicates that the robot has the potential to help with lower limb recovery; as a result its use as a medical device has been officially approved and certified. Toyota hopes to rent out 100 of the Welwalk WW-100 robots to medical establishments from autumn this year.