Transhumanism isn’t just for the kids.
In a project where past and future collide, and high-tech and evolutionary design meet, researchers at Japan’s Keio University have built a robotic tail to help the elderly stay on their feet.
Arque is a silver, articulated appendage that responds to the movements of the users’ body to maintain equilibrium. At one metre long, it is suspended above the ground and mounted on the body through a harness. It can move in eight directions, powered by four artificial muscles and compressed air.
“The tail keeps balance like a pendulum,” said Junichi Nabeshima, a graduate student and researcher at the university’s Embodied Media Project.
“When a human tilts their body one way, the tail moves in the opposite direction.” Nabeshima demonstrates the tail’s use in the video below.
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“For most vertebrate animals, [a] tail plays an important role for their body, providing variant functions to expand their mobility,” the project’s online description notes. “In this work, Arque, we propose an artificial biomimicry-inspired anthropomorphic tail to allow us to alter our body momentum for assistive and haptic feedback applications.”
Arque isn’t quite market-ready, with researchers at the Embodied Media lab working on ways to make it more flexible.
Japan is home to the world’s oldest population, with 26.7 per cent aged 65 or older. The rate of ageing has been so rapid, the Abe administration has described it as a “national crisis”. The demographic trend has put the technologically advanced country at the forefront of developing solutions to accommodate the distinct needs of the elderly.
Arque has been intended for a wider audience however, with possible applications for stabilising workers on factory floors, who routinely move heavy objects as part of their job.Do you have an idea for a story?
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