Japan is no stranger to robotics. From Asimov to Gundam, hi-tech development in both real and fictional worlds is almost taken for granted. Some days, we even wake up feeling a bit disappointed that Ghost in the Shell isn’t a documentary–though even that seemingly becoming closer to reality every day.

Here’s one example of robotics enhancing the lives of stroke victims–and looking good doing it, too!

Strokes are pretty scary–and they’re not limited to older folks either. While we certainly hope that none of us or our readers will suffer from a stroke any time soon, at least we can take comfort in knowing that work on post-stroke recovery is advancing one step at a time.


Yaskawa Electric, a company aiming to develop both robotics to help the elderly in countries with low birth rates and environmentally friendly energy resources, has debuted an “ankle-assist walking device.” The device, one part of their “2015 Vision,” uses sensors and electric motors to basically teach stroke victims and others with walking-impediments how walk again.

Relearning basic physical movements like walking can be very difficult for stroke-victims, according to Yaskawa, partially because of how hard it can be to verbally describe  to a patient how to walk. After all, when we were learning to get up and waddle around, it wasn’t like our parents were telling us what to do, shouting “Shift your weight onto the ball of your foot! Now lift your heel and bend your knee!” And even if they were, we almost definitely weren’t listening to them!

▼Let’s be honest: These things are going to be the hottest fashion in about five years.


The therapeutic devices that Yaskawa has created use actuators to “show” patients in therapy how their feet should be moving by rotating the device up and down as they walk. This physical feedback provides an accurate feel for how their bodies are supposed to be moving, helping stroke-victims and others avoid further injuries and re-learn the movements that once came naturally. One problem stroke patients face is that many do not properly lift the tips of their toes, which results in tripping and falling. A fall for someone who’s already suffered a stroke or some other physical ailment is sure to compound the problem, so quick, correct rehabilitation is vital.

The devices can be strapped on around the patient’s ordinary shoes and clothes, allowing for quick and easy attachment. Additionally, the sensors in the bottom of the devices, which look like giant anime boots to us, can accurately detect if the wearer is walking correctly–ensuring a gait like the one shown below.

▼On the left is the “stance phase” and on the right is the “swing phase.”


Starting from the left, the patient is meant to be: 1) Putting their foot down, heel first, 2) laying their toes down, 3) raising their heels with their toes still on the ground, 4) lifting their toes up, 5) moving the entire leg forward and then back to the first step again.

The company currently has the device in a number of clinical trials where it seems to be showing promising results. Hopefully it works as expected and will soon be on the market helping speed up people’s recovery!

If you’re interested in learning more about Yaskawa Electric, who will be celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2015, be sure to check out their English homepage.

Sources: Yaskawa Electric, DigInfo TV
Images: Yaskawa Electric

You can check out a video demonstration of the device below. The explanation is in Japanese, though still it gives you an idea of how they work in practice.