Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:53 AM cstanton

Japan Builds Teddy Bear Nurse


 The Japanese never cease to amaze me. As the Japanese population is getting older, nurses are being stretched thin and there just aren't enough of them. The people at RIKEN, or Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, have built a robonurse to help with the solution. RIBA, Robot for Interactive Body Assistance, was built by RIKEN and Tokai Rubber Industries (TRI) to assist nurses in lifting patients out of their beds.

Gotta love the music.

The robot features a large array of tactile sensors that help it to adjust to any kind of situation and help it raise and lower the patient with as little discomfort as possible. The robot features long jointed arms that can lift up to 135 pounds. The arms even slightly give, giving it a more human feel. TRI developed a lightweight urethane foam for the skin, which is also supposed to give the patient a nice human skin feel. The robot can respond to voice commands and has a facial recognition program so it can recognize specific coworkers and patients. It sits on omnidirectional wheels that allow it to move around in tight spaces as is necessary in the nursing stations and hospitals where it will be used. The sensors also allow it to utilize video and audio to react to immediate changes in the nearby surroundings very efficiently.

What's really great about this robot is that it has the face of a big teddy bear. RIKEN released in a press conference that designing the robot to look more like a human would probably just scare patients, so a big teddy bear was obviously their second choice. 

Technology like this is thought by many to be the solution to the shortage of nurses in the overfilled hospitals of Japan. RIKEN plans to have RIBA at work in hospitals and nursing facilities within the next 5 years.

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