Sekisui and Honda have gotten together to work on robots for use at home. With the aging population in Japan, it makes sense – about 20% of the nation is over the age of 65. These robots are being designed with the idea of helping keep the elderly independent and living on their own as long as possible. Honda and Sekisui have come up with the idea that robots could support household chores and keep many out of nursing homes, which could otherwise quickly become overcrowded by an aging population.

One of the biggest problems for the elderly is mobility – canes, walkers and wheelchairs are difficult to use. The UNI-CUB is a motorized means of transport, originally a competitor for the Segway and intended to be an office transportation device, which has now been found to be a very convenient way to get around the home. It appears unicycle-like, but doesn’t require anywhere near the same level of balance. Unlike the Segway, the UNI-CUB passenger is seated – much safer of course for an older person.

Robotic legs have also been designed to assist with stairs and bending – with a seat to sit on, your feet slide into the robotic legs. The machine then assists your leg muscles, allowing you to step up and down or bend using only a fraction of your own strength. It is essentially an exoskeleton for the lower half of your body. While this too started out in an office environment, it is being adapted to meet the needs of the elderly.

The next decade would be pretty tough on Japan if suddenly one-fifth of the country needed daily care – hopefully these robotic devices will stave off this need a little longer. While Honda is known for making great machines, Sekisui is known for producing ergonomic devices – the teaming up of these two companies has therefore been a great success for the research and development of these products.

The two companies are working together to evaluate what they are producing and to determine whether or not they should continue ahead in their joint venture into robotic devices.