A new robot using high-precision tactile sensors and flexible motor control technology has taken Japan one step closer to its goal of providing high-quality care for its growing elderly population.
Developed by researchers at RIKEN and Tokai Rubber Industries (TRI), the new robot can lift a patient up to 80kg in weight off floor-level bedding and into a wheelchair, freeing care facility personnel of one of their most difficult and energy-consuming tasks.
With an elderly population in need of nursing care projected to reach a staggering 5.69 million by 2015, Japan faces an urgent need for new approaches to assist care-giving personnel.
In 2009, the RIKEN-TRI Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research (RTC), a joint project established in 2007 and located at the Nagoya Science Park in central Japan, unveiled a robot called RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) designed to assist in this task. The first robot capable of lifting a patient from a bed to a wheelchair and back, RIBA charted a new course in the development of care-giving robots, yet functional limitations prevented its direct commercialization.
RTC’s new robot, named RIBA-II, overcomes these limitations with added power and functionality. New joints in the robot’s base and lower back enable RIBA-II to crouch down and lift a patient off a futon at floor level. RIBA-II accomplishes this task using newly-developed Smart Rubber sensors.
In the future, RTC researchers will work together with partner nursing care facilities to test RIBA-II and further tailor it to the needs of caregivers and their patients, while also developing new applications in areas such as rehabilitation.
[Source: Medical News Today]