Koma 1.5 can be either a buggy or a powered exoskeleton, as required
When you're carrying a heavy load, it can be pretty difficult walking across flat ground, let alone climbing stairs. The Koma 1.5 is designed to help, by alternately acting as a powered buggy or a two-legged lower-body exoskeleton.
Currently in functioning prototype form, the device is being developed by Panasonic subsidiary Atoun. Among other things, the Japanese "powered wear" company has previously brought us the Model Y and Himico assistive exoskeletons, which help their wearers to lift heavy items and walk over rough terrain, respectively.
The idea behind the Koma 1.5 is that when its load-carrying user is traversing smooth, level surfaces – like factory or warehouse floors, for instance – they just stand up on the rig, hold onto its two control arms, and get carried along by its four motorized wheels. This is known as Buggy Mode, and it offers both the smoothest ride and the simplest operation.
Should the user need to climb stairs or step over an obstacle, though, the pushing of a button switches the setup over to Two-Legged Mode. Its two front wheels then retract back to form two powered, articulated "legs" that follow the movements of the user's legs, supporting them as they step up and down.
As an added bonus, the Koma 1.5 is reportedly capable of autonomously spotting and avoiding obstacles, utilizing its integrated camera and an AI-based computer vision system.
There's currently no word on when or if the device will reach production. For now, though, you can see the prototype in action, in the following video.