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Walk of life: Robotic devices help tour participants stroll through west Japan city

Participants using wearable robotics climb stone stairs at Uji Shrine in the city of Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, on March 3, 2020. (Mainichi/Kentaro Susuki)

UJI, Kyoto -- A local sightseeing tour in which participants used wearable robotics to help them walk and visit popular spots was recently held in this western Japan city.

The tour was organized by Tokyo-based major travel agency Club Tourism International Inc. and robot development company ATOUN, based in the western Japan prefecture of Nara, in a bid to offer people who have difficulty walking due to aging or other problems a chance to enjoy strolling around the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture.

The latest model of the device weighs about 2.5 kilograms. Users wear waist pouches that include motors, batteries and computer circuits hanging from suspenders. Knee supports are attached to the pouches by wires. Power is adjusted by the computer, which analyzes the manner of walking and the road situation, after the user makes their first two steps.

A total of 12 people ranging in age from their 30s to 70s took part in the tour, walking about a 3-kilometer route along the Uji River from Keihan Uji Station for some two hours. After climbing stone stairs at shrines and going up steep hills, they appreciated the benefits of the equipment.

Hajime Kuribayashi, 78, visiting from the Osaka Prefecture city of Katano, also in western Japan, said, "I was able to walk easily today even though I have been poor at walking long distances since I was young. If more of these types of tours and robots are available, I will be able to visit take part in a wider range of activities."

(Japanese original by Kentaro Suzuki, Gakken Uji Bureau)

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