TOKYO – Sitting down on the job may actually be the best way to get things done after all. And who’s to argue if the doctor prescribes it?

For designers at Yokohama-based machinery firm Nitto, hopes are riding on the notion that physicians really do know best. The 49-year-old company has developed an ergonomic, wearable chair that may eventually supplant all of its other businesses lines.

The firm’s custom-built “archelis” unit is made of aluminum and carbon composite parts and straps to the thighs and lower legs. Both strong and ultra-light, it allows the wearer to partially recline while remaining standing, while still allowing ample stature to perform manual tasks.

“Doctors, dentists, and even sushi makers — professionals who spend a lot of time on their feet – wanted something that allows them to physically relax somewhat while not halting work,” says Takuya Sato, a young Nitto sales manager. “Surgeons have been especially vocal, as they can find themselves in the operating room for long hours performing complex procedures and can’t afford to take a break.”

Developed the device in cooperation with Chiba University.
The archelis is unlike other current robot-assisted exoskeleton products, as it requires no external power or pneumatic system and contains no servo motors or electronics.

Strapping in and getting used to the unit is easy; in the partial reclining position, the archelis transfers weight from the heels, calves, and knees to the thighs, where it partially ‘locks’ to support the upper leg muscles. The result is a very comfortable, non-exhaustive, easily sustainable posture.

Such devices represent a growing wave of tech advances that are steadily gaining wider acceptance in Japan. In 2015, the nation’s health ministry approved the sale of Cyberdyne’s “HAL” (Hybrid Assistive Limb) for Medical Use device, a wearable walk-assist robot. The machine is designed to help patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy and other ailments.

Cyberdyne, along with other companies such as Innophys and ActiveLink, comprise a small cadre of Japanese firms rushing to the exoskeleton design market. Most of the sophisticated gear is used for helping with lifting objects while supporting the lower back region.

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