KYOTO, Japan—Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd.  (TOKYO: 6981) (ISIN: JP3914400001) has teamed up with Kowa Co., Ltd., a general manufacturer of welfare products, to develop a personalized Electric Walking Assist Car, which the companies describe as an "Electric Walking Assist Car" and that goes by the name of "KeePace." As a result of the progress made in "assist control systems," which incorporate Murata's own MEMS gyro sensor*1 and inclinometers*2 as well as its inverted pendulum control technology*3, uphill mobility support and turning functions have undergone a quantum leap in improvement.
Murata's technological PR robots — the "MURATA BOY" bicycle-riding robot and "MURATA GIRL" unicycle-riding robot — use inverted pendulum control technology centered on gyro sensors to detect the inclination of the robot body to achieve "stopping without falling over," where the robot comes to a standstill without toppling over. The company applied this technology and exhibited a concept model of an Electric Walking Assist Car at last year's CEATEC JAPAN 2011. Now it has worked on the joint development of this kind of vehicle with Kowa Co., Ltd., which has cornered a 50% share of Japan's market for Electric Walking Assist Car for the elderly and handicapped, as a personalized transport vehicle designed to be used by the elderly and the handicapped who have problems walking. Incorporated in the "assist control systems," which are a Murata core technology, are Murata's MEMS gyro sensors and inclinometers and the inverted pendulum control technology that makes use of these sensors, and by the optimal design of the drive mechanism and control units, a smaller size has been achieved while the uphill mobility support and turning functions have been significantly enhanced.
Mr. Hideharu Ieki, Executive Vice President of Murata Manufacturing says "we believe that there is still plenty of room for electronics to find uses in nursing care and welfare equipment. We at Murata are hoping to move our products onto the market with all due speed as an example of being in the vanguard of the health care field to which Murata is currently paying a great deal of attention."
Terminology & On-board sensors products
|*1||MEMS gyros sensor:||This angular speed sensor detects changes in inclination and curvature. In car navigation systems, it serves to identify the car's present position by detecting changes in the direction in which the vehicle is moving. Elsewhere, it is also being used for camera shake compensation and sensing motion using remote control.|
|*2||Inclinometers:||This sensor measures angles of inclination. The inclinometers made by Murata Electronics Oy (formerly VTI) is featured in the KeePace. This product features (1) high accuracy, (2) high reliability and (3) high practicability. It is mainly used in forklift trucks, cranes and other construction equipment, leveling devices for measuring horizontality on construction sites and measuring systems (artificial horizons) in aircraft.|
|*3||Inverted pendulum control technology:||This balance control technology prevents tip-over by the robot's sensing its own inclination and then moving the body in the direction in which it will tip over.|
Murata in Brief
Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. is a worldwide leader in the design, manufacture and sale of ceramic-based passive electronic components & solutions, communication modules and power supply modules. With annual revenues of ¥585 billion (~$7.1B USD) , Murata is committed to the development of advanced electronic materials and leading edge, multi-functional, high-density modules. The company has employees and manufacturing facilities throughout the world. For more information, visit Murata's website at http://www.murata.com/ 
Corporate overview of KOWA CO., LTD.
|Company name:||KOWA CO., LTD.|
|Address:||3-159-1, Kaisan-cho, Sakai-ku, Sakai-shi, Osaka|
|Representative:||Director, President: Hideaki Tamada|
|Business lines:||Development, planning and design, manufacture and sale of general walking cars, walking aids, silver cars, wheelchairs, walking canes, shoes, bath goods, meals and health related products, flooring and clothing related products, toilet support related products.|
|Number of employees:||95 staff members in Japan, 461 staff members on a consolidated basis (as of March 2012)|