Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Walk

The C-Walker in use (Photo: DALi)

The C-Walker is a high-tech walking device that aims to safely guide people with cognitive impairments through public spaces like airports and shopping centers, reducing their reliance on visual signboards and avoiding obstacles in their way. Using onboard sensors, this "cognitive navigation prosthesis" monitors its environment in real time to figure out a path that poses little risk, actively re-planning it when it encounters problems like wet floors, or people dashing about. Aside from aiding senior citizens, the technology is expected to come in handy in factory settings, helping workers avoid danger zones and accidental collisions with machines.  Read More

'ReWalker' Gene Laureano crosses the finish line at the Generosity NYC 5K

Released two years ago, the ReWalk powered exoskeleton allows wheelchair users to walk upright again – albeit with the additional help of a pair of crutches. This past Sunday (Nov. 17), a group of ReWalk users from around the world got together in New York City, where they used their exoskeletons to take part in a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) charity walk.  Read More

AMBER 2 is a robotic simulation of bipedal locomotion that closely mirrors a human gait

Bipedal robots have proved a challenging frontier for roboticists, with styles ranging from clunkers to lurchers to those seemingly falling over drunk. However, the AMBER lab at Texas A&M University has created universal mathematical functions of walking derived from human data and optimized for robotic systems. Their own proof of concept robots have strikingly human gaits and react appropriately to disturbances. Furthermore, the system has the potential to be applied to other bipedal robots to similarly upgrade their stride.  Read More

Prof. Mo Rastgaar (left) and PhD student Evandro Ficanha, with the leg and its testing rig...

Although computer-controlled artificial legs have been around for a few years now, they generally still feature an ankle joint that only allows the foot to tilt along a toe-up/toe-down axis. That's fine for walking in a straight line, but what happens when users want to turn a corner, or walk over uneven terrain? Well, in some cases, they end up falling down. That's why researchers at Michigan Technological University are now developing a microprocessor-controlled leg with an ankle that also lets the foot roll from side to side.  Read More

Virtualizer inventor Tuncay Cakmak tries out the system

Remember when you were a kid, and you used to go sliding across the floor in your stocking feet? Well, researchers at Austria's Vienna University of Technology have developed a virtual reality gaming system that brings those sock-sliding days to mind. It allows players to walk on the spot in the real world, causing their character to walk across the ground in the game.  Read More

The first prototype

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a remarkable drone aircraft that can also walk on land using only its wings for locomotion. Named DALER, a backronym standing for Deployable Air Land Exploration Robot, the robot is named after creator Ludovic Daler of the EPFL's Laboratory of Intelligent Systems.  Read More

Isowalk is a new walking cane with cutting edge design and wireless

The project does not exactly reinvent the wheel, but it sets out to improve on a device that is almost as old. The traditional walking cane is undergoing a design revolution that draws inspiration from the latest developments in ergonomics and even aerospace engineering. Isowalk, currently fundraising on Indiegogo, is a new design aimed at taking the walking cane to a new level of sophistication, besides making it more user-friendly and safer. Its designer also wants to enable it with wireless technology and create different models for different needs.  Read More

The prototype soft exosuit in action

Powered exoskeletons show great promise both for augmenting the abilities of able-bodied users, and for rehabilitating the disabled. That said, they also tend to be hard-bodied contraptions that don’t look particularly comfortable (or light) to wear. Researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute recently demonstrated what they hope will be a more user-friendly alternative – a “soft exosuit.”  Read More

SolePower and its ankle strap battery

Two years ago, University of Wisconsin–Madison engineering researchers Tom Krupenkin and J. Ashley Taylor developed a device designed to harness the power of walking to charge an internal battery. Now, a new product called SolePower is looking to do the same thing, and its designers are turning to Kickstarter to bring it to the masses. The difference between this and other devices is that it comes in the form of a removable insole, so it can be used in different kinds of shoes.  Read More

The KHR-3HV robot's hardware has been slightly modified but would normally cost around US$...

While there are several humanoid robot kits available to hobbyists, most of them leave much to be desired when it comes to walking the way we do. The fact that they can move on two feet at all is pretty cool, but most simply bend their knees and make a series of quick little steps, resulting in a gait which looks like they're shuffling rather than really walking. Professional roboticists and programmers are now beginning to show some improvements that are worth seeing in action.  Read More

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