Robotic tail for humans? [Sci Tech]

Our ancestors had tails several million years ago. And according to paleo-anthropologists, specialists in human evolution, this tail would have disappeared because man has become bipedal.

Engineers from Keio University in Tokyo, Japan, attempt to come up with their robotic tail for the elderly. They decided to call it “Arque”, a one-metre-long appendix that attaches to the waist with a harness to help maintain balance, according to the researchers.

If the Arque,project turns out successful and applicable,it will certainly be able to help the elderly in their daily lives and people in the rehabilitation phase. Researchers at Keio University are also suggesting a completely different use: the robotic tail could be a fun accessory for video games integrating virtual reality, as it would add an interesting effect to the body of the player who would walk around in virtual worlds.

The prototype has been presented to the public but no commercialization date has yet been announced as scientists are first looking to make the Arque more compact and portable.

The Arque works a little like the tail of many animals such as cheetahs and kangaroos. This robotic tail has four artificial muscles and can swing in eight different directions. Its length and weight can be adjusted by removing or adding “vertebrae”, small metal modules weighing between 24 and 184 grams. In addition to the elderly, the team also targets workers who have to carry heavy loads, so the tail can be used to reduce effort by creating a counterweight.

It is easy to understand the motivation for such an invention. One third of the Japanese population will be over 65 years old by 2025. The country is relying heavily on robotics to cope with aging.

More and more technological aids are being developed in Japan today that provide support for autonomy and allow the person to act as much as possible on his or her own in the face of difficulties, without relying on external intervention. But we add to that by saying that its technologies must not infantilize and isolate the older ones.

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