'Welfare robots' for aged

2010-07-29 09:25

kalahari.com

Tokyo - Robotic wheelchairs, mechanical arms and humanoid waiters are among the cutting-edge inventions on show at a robotics fair in Japan, a country whose population is ageing rapidly.

To ease the burden in a nation with one of the world's highest life expectancies, engineers have come up with technologies to make life easier for the elderly and disabled, and their caregivers.

A new robot wheelchair developed at Saitama University near Tokyo doesn't need to be propelled manually by the user or pushed by a caregiver but can instead automatically move besides a walking person.

"Imagine if you enter a store having somebody push your wheelchair," said one of the researchers, Yoshinori Kobayashi, assistant professor for information science and technology at the university.

"Your relationship with him or her may not look equal to a store clerk or onlookers. You would fail to be treated as an independent person."

Caregivers

The wheelchair is fitted with a camera and sensors that detect both the caregiver and obstacles ahead to safely guide the vehicle, which can also be stopped or overridden with a joystick by the person in the wheelchair.

Kobayashi, pointing at a shortage of caregivers in Japan, said the team is working on a system that would allow more than one automated wheelchair to follow a caregiver at the same time.

Another innovation to make life easier for the disabled is the "RAPUDA" robotic arm, a "portable manipulator" being developed by Woo-Keun Yoon of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

Patients who are largely paralysed but can move some part of their body, such as a fingertip, a toe, or their neck, will be able to control the arm and utilise its reach and strength.

The arm can be attached to wheelchairs, tables and other objects and extended to up to one metre (three feet) to pick up objects, helping improve quality of life for the disabled, said Yoon.

"It's important that you can have tea when you want to, or pick up what you like in a shop," Yoon said. "Otherwise you have to ask people many times... and end up saying 'thank you' many times and exhausting yourself."

Another invention from Saitama University, still in the development phase, is a robot that is being designed to serve its human masters and predict their wishes by literally reading their faces.

Complexities

With its female appearance and dressed, manga-cartoon-style, in a French maid uniform, the humanoid on display at the fair can move about with the help of a Segway people mover hidden under its full-length skirt.

Sensors and software inside the machine are designed to detect when a human being is looking at it and to respond by, for example, bringing the person a drink, said Kobayashi, adding that the robot-maid could one day work in homes for the elderly and restaurants.

Learning about the complexities of human behaviour will be a challenge, said Kobayashi, adding: "Humanoids need to learn how they should behave so as not to leave one particular person in a group unattended."

Japanese researchers have come up with other "welfare robot" devices in recent years, including the "YURINA", made by Japan Logic Machine, a wheeled robot that can lift bed-ridden people with its arms.

After receiving instructions on a touch panel embedded in the robot's head, it can lift a patient's legs to change their diapers, or place them in a hammock to carry them safely for a bath.

"Elderly care requires a lot of heavy physical work," said marketing official Yoshitaka Takata. "This robot can be a lot of help."

Japanese people are living longer than ever, with the average life expectancy now a world-record 86.44 years for women and 79.59 years for men, the health and welfare ministry said on Monday.
Read more on:    technology  |  robotics
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
/Fashion
 

6 life hacks you simply have to know

A few simple tricks can make your life so much easier!

 
 

For chic geeks...

Device lets disabled people talk through their nose
It’s THIS easy for someone to steal your ATM pin!
This is why you should install iOS 8
17 photo illusions that look so real

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Your sense of duty is emphasized and you may put your heart and soul into helping, serving and being there for the community in a...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.