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Pilgrims get a lift with robotic suit in development by Japanese university and airline

A Japanese university and airline company have held a feasibility study of a robotic suit designed to assist with walking. It was conducted in Shikoku, southwestern Japan, which is home to a famous traditional Buddhist pilgrimage. The robotic suit developed by the Tokyo Institute of Technology has already been used at healthcare facilities in rehabilitation programs for people who have difficulty walking. The equipment is now being tested for tourism-related applications. The university and All Nippon Airways are jointly studying whether the device can be used to aid Ohenro pilgrims. The famous pilgrimage of 88 temples in Shikoku is especially popular with the elderly. The 6-kilogram device attaches to the user's back and its four motors reduce the burden of walking. In the test, users walked uphill about 500 meters between two temples, generating data for the project. A man who tried the suit said he could walk without getting winded, and could feel the power of the machine. The organizers are considering tourism products such as a package tour for elderly pilgrims that would allow them to travel on foot with the device's assistance.