Japan is definitely not a country that is afraid of innovation or modern technology. Their robotics market is undoubtedly one of the best. Now, hoewever, scientists at Keio University have come up with a robotic tail that they believe can help people who have stability problems.
Cheetahs or other animals use their tail to maintain balance and run. This gray, one meter long robotic tail called Arque is supposed to fulfill the same function for humans.
"The tail maintains balance like a pendulum. When you tilt your body in one direction, the tail will move in the other,"
explained Junichi Nabeshima, a graduate student and researcher in the Embodied Media university project.
The Arque consists of interconnected plastic vertebrae which move on the basis of compressed air. Each spine joint is formed by a central plate surrounded by four additional protective plates, connected by elastic cords. The robotic tail can be attached around the waist and adjusted as needed according to a person's weight and height.
"I think it would be nice to incorporate this further developed prosthetic tail into everyday life, when you're looking for a little more balance,"
Lithe like a cat, flexible like a seahorse
When creating this robotic aid, Japanese scientists also drew inspiration from the tail of a seahorse, which is long and flexible.
"For most vertebrates, the tail plays a very important role and provides a number of alternative features that expand more than just mobility,"
the Japanese scientists wrote in their statement. Their main dream is to give people the dexterity and agility of a cat.
However, Arque may not be primarily intended for older people suffering from instability. It can also help warehouse workers, for example, who often carry very heavy loads and are at risk of losing their balance. The team of scientists believe that in the future they could connect the robotic tail with brain signals to create an extra or a substitute artificial limb. Last but not least, the tail can serve for entertainment in the gaming industry and enrich the virtual world if its users.