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Motion Assistance Robots Grant Advanced Mobility to Elderly


In an effort to meet the growing demand for robot assistants in a country with an increasing number of elderly people, Taiwan-based wearable motion assistance robot developer Free Bionics is marketing its products to major hospitals in Japan, according to DigiTimes.

Free Bionics recently signed contracts with medical equipment distributor USCI Japan to promote its robotics products, which assist users with standing, sitting, and walking. In a country in which a third of the population is over the age of 60, such products could not only generate tremendous sales, but could also take some of the burden off of hospital staff and family members when taking care of the elderly.

Originally an R&D team that was part of Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Free Bionics was formed when the team was spun off into its own company, with an investment from Wistron Corporation. Perhaps better known as the former manufacturing arm of computer giant Acer, Wistron invested NT$120 million ($3,960,000) and acquired a 48.72 percent stake in Free Bionics.

Perhaps due to its stake in Free Bionics, Wistron has a biomedical subsidiary that is also cooperating with Free Bionics to develop robots. Finally, this biomedical subsidiary has also partnered with robotics firm Bionik Laboratories to build motion assistance robots. This is a surprising move given Wistron’s investment in Free Bionics, but this might be a way for Wistron to both hedge its bets and rake in huge profits if the motion assistance robot industry takes off. For what it’s worth, Free Bionics chairman Wu Cheng Hua expects his company to become the leading motion assistance robotics firm by the year 2019, and hopes to expand to many other markets. It remains to be seen whether the company markets its products only in countries with a large elderly population, but one thing is for sure – robot personal assistants are likely to proliferate in the years to come.

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