It is not so surprising to think about the advanced scope of robotic technology espoused by the Japanese. However, this time around, highfalutin stuff gives way to conscientiousness with the ‘adorable’ Robear – a nursing care robot developed by the collaborative effort of RIKEN and Sumitomo Riko Company Limited. Envisaged as an autonomous aiding mechanism for the rising aging population of Japan, the design of Robear is quite antithetical to the automatons we are used to in pop culture (read Transformers). This was an intentional ploy on the part of the engineers so as to uphold the non-threatening side of affairs – epitomized by its smiling bear-like visage and an innocuous white uniform.
Beyond the cute credentials, the Robear boasts of an advanced piece of machinery based upon its predecessors – the RIBA and RIBA II assistance robots. In that regard, the Robobear does have the capacity to lift the patient directly out of the bed for a whopping 40 times a day. It can also gently position the assisted person into a wheelchair, while accounting for additional tasks like helping the person to stand upright and nimbly altering his sleeping posture to avoid bedsores.
These functional attributes are possible because of the Robear’s progressive stabilizing system that is complemented by a set of deploying legs (that can be withdrawn when not in use). Furthermore, the smiling automaton has responsive joints – courtesy of its low gear ratio actuators, along with a bevy of sensors that aid in smart yet nimble movements when interacting with patients.
At the end of the day, all of these translate to a futuristic yet practical ambit that is tailored to the healthcare of the aging population. This scope certainly alludes to foresightedness, especially given the lack of assistance workers available in Japan (mainly due to the ‘vicious cycle’ of the aging population). As Toshiharu Mukai, head of the Robot Sensor Systems Research Team says –
We really hope that this robot will lead to advances in nursing care, relieving the burden on care-givers today. We intend to continue with research toward more practical robots capable of providing powerful yet gentle care to elderly people.