Sometimes you have to admire a company’s commitment to an idea.
Honda recently announced the first large scale clinical trial of a device it made to help stroke survivors learn to walk again. The study has already begun, and is being performed at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
The Walking Assist Device is somewhat futuristic-looking, but it’s relatively small and looks lightweight. About 795,000 people suffer strokes every year in the U.S., many of whom have to undergo expensive physical therapy afterward to regain mobility, and face challenges to being able to walk or work again.
The device is actually pretty cool when you examine how it works. It’s worn outside your clothes, and sensors on each hip study how you walk. Motors controlled by the sensors then help each leg to gradually achieve a longer, more natural stride that’s symmetrical with the other leg. The device also has adjustable belts so that it can be fitted to each person’s unique body structure.
Honda began researching the idea in 1999, and has been studying how people walk ever since. According to a press release, Honda has been working with physical therapists, medical doctors, researchers, patients and research institutions throughout Japan. Thanks to the data amassed from these sources, the WAD was developed and nine units shipped to Chicago for testing.
Statistics gathered by the University Hospital of New Jersey show that medical care and therapy costs for stroke survivors are around $26 billion every year, and that rehabilitation accounts for 16 percent of that cost. This device could therefore help save as much as $4 billion every year. It might also be helpful to survivors of other illnesses or trauma who have a need for mobility rehabilitation.
Kind of cool that a company that makes cars would help with our most basic form of transportation, isn’t it?
This is a good example of the importance of research and development, social responsibility, and companies thinking about more than their bottom line. Fourteen years is a long time to funnel money into a project that doesn’t immediately bring in revenue, and it’s doubtful that the WAD will bring in more profit than a car. Kudos to Honda for thinking differently.