In one of its most recent patent filings – Hitachi announced their joining the race to creating the biomechanical man. Could this be the technology that spawns a new life expectancy revolution? Or another chess move in the battle of robotics between eastern and western civilisations?
Hitachi’s’ patent is both surprisingly straightforward and minimalistic, and yet an innovative variation on the exoskeleton concept that will bring bionic assisted motion a leap forward for the elderly suffering from arthritis and other maneuverability inhibiting illnesses.
The product depicted in the patent doesn’t stray too far away from the most basic exoskeleton configuration, utilising a bulk computer unit mounted to the users back that will act as its central nervous system, accompanied by joint braces to distribute the motion.
The products competitive advantage comes in its reduced reliance on actuators. The product achieves this reduction in parts through its clever drive train technology that moves away form using a dedicated motor for every joint. Instead it utilises a special wiring grid that allows a single actuator to control multiple braces resulting in an exoskeleton design that has only one motor per leg.
This reduced actuator count eliminates both the weight of the unnecessary motors and the batteries that are required to support them, making the exoskeleton both significantly lighter and more robust than its complex hydraulic counterparts. This innovative approach dramatically reduces the cost of the unit and brings it comfortably into the threshold of being affordable to the elderly demographic.
Whether or not this product does indeed reach the end user, this approach will undoubtedly form the foundations of the technology moving forward.
To read more about the patent visit Declassified.com or the US Patent and Trademark office.