Paralympics wins with Panasonic Robots

2020 is a year we couldn’t forget no matter how hard we tried. Covid-19 took over the world in the blink of an eye, putting everyone’s plans on hold, and causing every soul to hold their breath, waiting to exhale into what we would hope to be normality and familiarity of the world we used to know.

We’re still waiting for whatever the new normal will be, but in the meantime, we have gone on as business as usual. And business as usual for us includes the 125 year old tradition of the Summer Olympics and Paralympics taking place; athletes ready to compete, and the world waiting to watch. The 2020 games were to be held in Tokyo, one of our planets busiest and most exciting cities. The games were put off for a year, but that didn’t dim the fire inside the athletes, and the competitions raged on in 2021.

Panasonic Para Power Lifting suit
Panasonic’sPower Assist Suit used during the Paralympic Games – 2021 IPC. All Rights Reserved. 

Panasonic, who has been bringing forth innovative technology since 1918, brought in new products that may change the games from here on out. ABILITY Magazine had a video chat with Panasonic’s Tokyo Olympic & Paralympic Enterprise Division, Robot Promotion Manager and their Assistant Chief at their Headquarters in Japan, and found that since our last interview with Panasonic—they are still creating products in hopes to enhance people’s quality of life around the globe.

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Panasonic introduced two advanced robot suits, and a robot vacuum cleaner.

The Power Assist Suit ATOUN MODEL Y + kote was created to help with heavy lifting, alleviating pressure and stress from the lower back and arms. Viewers of the Paralympics saw this new suit being used by the spotter and loader personnel who were moving weights and spotting athletes during the powerlifting competition.

Panasonic Power Lifting suit
Power Assist Suit —2021 IPC. All Rights Reserved. 

Keiji Ogishima, Assistant Chief, explained the mechanics behind the suit. “The suit has a sensor located on the back, and it detects the person’s movements so it knows when to give assistance to the person wearing it. When the person is lifting something or they stand up, the suit pulls the person’s body upward. Each suit allows for the individual using it to preset their needs before putting the suit on, so it is customizable for whomever wears it.”When I wake up sick and tired, I usually forget to be miserable by the time I finish showering. If my toothbrush is moved ever so slightly however, I will also forget to brush my teeth.

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This new Power Assist Suit has been introduced in airports, factories, farms and construction sites. Takahiro Kurokawa, Manager, said “We created this suit for factory workers and manufacturing sites because in those jobs there is a lot of heavy lifting. We saw how it aided in helping to move heavy items, keeping the pressure off of the body of those who wore it. We then thought that it could be used in more than just factories. There are so many industries and people that could benefit from a product like this. So we contacted the Japan Powerlifting Committee Association and worked with them first. We then connected with the World Powerlifting Association, and it was used at the World Para Powerlifting event. It was then brought to the 2020 games and we were able to see how it could be helpful for more than we originally thought.”

Ogishima added, “Since it was used successfully in the Paralympics Powerlifting Competition, we are considering to bring this into nursing care facilities to help caretakers in lifting patients, and in other locations where it is needed as well. Although, it is quiet heavy to wear at this point, we will continue to further reduce the weight so that it’s more suitable to bring to other markets who would benefit from having suits like this.”

Panasonic ATOUN HIMICO suit
Panasonic ATOUN HIMICO suit – © 2021 IPC. All Rights Reserved. 

Panasonic also introduced the ATOUN HIMICO, a suit worn by the staff at the Olympics and Paralympics to help lighten fatigue from so much walking. This suit has motion sensors, with a motor at the waist that helps to lift the lower legs while walking, reducing the pressure on the knees.

Ogishima said, “In creating the ATOUN HIMICO, we were thinking of two scenarios—one is for elderly people. They have a hard time getting out of their homes, and this could aide them to go out and walk more, improving their quality of life. Since it takes the pressure off of the knees, this will allow for them to walk further, even go on hikes, without becoming fatigued quickly. The second thought behind this suit is for people whose job requires them to walk around for extended periods of time. It will aide them in becoming less fatigued, allowing them to do their jobs easily and also keeping their body safe. The staff at the 2020 games wore them because they are always walking around for long periods of time and using stairs frequently.”

Kurokawa added, “We can see this also being used for people who have difficulty walking. Since it takes pressure off of the legs, this will allow people who have a hard time walking to have assistance in walking, and therefore improving their lives as well.”When I wake up sick and tired, I usually forget to be miserable by the time I finish showering. If my toothbrush is moved ever so slightly however, I will also forget to brush my teeth.

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Panasonic made a clean sweep by introducing their new robot vacuum cleaner. It was first introduced in Tokyo Big Sight, the main Olympics and Paralympics Press Center. “It’s AI enabled, and with the Covid-19 pandemic, the robots play an even greater role in society” Kurokawa said. “The robot vacuum is complete with Panasonic’s Nanoe TM, our bacteria-inhibiting dust box, which enables hygienic cleaning. The robot vacuum cleaner recognizes their environment by using cameras and LiDAR (light detection and ranging), and knows when it is time for it to clean up, with no preparation necessary. It can detect people and objects with high precision. The one showcased was a prototype, so we hope to keep moving forward to bring this to different markets that would benefit from a product like this.”

Panasonic Robot Vacuum
Panasonic Robot Vacuum

Ogishima responded “We will continue to be aware of the global market and the needs of those around the world. We hope to contribute products that are accessible to all that need them.”

by Karlee Wade

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