There is much anxiety in Japan related to accommodating their aging population. Their elderly and infirm number in the millions and that figure is growing out of proportion to the rest of the country. Caring for them is naturally on everyone’s minds — including those of roboticists. And research organization RIKEN is updating its medical assistance bot in order to help caretakers with the task of lifting a person from a bed to a wheelchair and back.
The new version of RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) can actually crouch down and pick up a patient off the floor, a strenuous action that caretakers must do frequently. It has sensors in its arms that work on the capacitive principle, but are made entirely from rubber (except for the conductive part, of course), which allow it to determine a patient’s weight and the correct force to impart in order to lift, roll, and so on.
I’d expect to see a lot more of these being developed over the next few years — the US has its share of research going on as well, and work with computer vision and superior biomimetic systems could produce robo-nurses that take a lot of grunt work off of human hands.
[via Fast Company]