Looking at its current population growth statistics, Japan is expecting a high number of aging individuals in the coming years, which means more elderly to take care of.
To cater for energy efficient yet gentle care, RIKEN and Sumitomo Riko Company Limited have developed Robear, a nursing care robot, developed by the RIKEN-SRK Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research in Nagoya.
Robear is a successor to Riken’s Robot for Interactive Body Assistance (RIBA) and RIBA II assistance robots, which were unveiled in 2009 and 2011, respectively. It has been designed to replace and assist humans that have to perform strenuous tasks in the health care profession, such as lifting patients out of bed multiple times in a day.
Robear has been designed to lift patients out of bed and into wheel chairs, turn them around to prevent bed sores and help them stand.
The care bear weighs merely 140 kg, and sports a smaller base than its predecessor. It is provided with a set of retractable legs, extended to stabilize itself if needed and tucked away when moving. This design imparts more stability to the nursing Robear and allows for a lighter design.
The design includes torque sensors and Smart Rubber capacitance-type tactile sensors to create gentle movements. The updated design has very low gear ratio actuators that make its joints fast and responsive and allow Robear to lift and assist patients comfortably and safely. These actuators have improved backdrivability, which means they have high force sensitivity and high impact resistance, which adapts to quick external forces mechanically, making the robot safer around humans.
“We really hope that this robot will lead to advances in nursing care, relieving the burden on caregivers today,” says Toshiharu Mukai, leader of the project’s robot sensor systems research team. “We intend to continue with research toward more practical robots capable of providing powerful yet gentle care to elderly people.”
Robear currently remains a research project, as Riken and its partners continue to improve the robot’s technology, and make sure it is safe for use in hospitals and old age homes.