Now here's something you don't hear about too often! Imagine a robot that can lift you in and out of bed when you're in the hospital, help you use the restroom, and assist with your wheelchair. Sounds unrealistic right? Well researchers at Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, also known as RIKEN, and Tokai Rubber Industries, Ltd. teamed up to create just that. This 400 lb robot was created to assist nurses primarily in lifting patients up to 135 lbs. This may sound unsafe, but sources assure us it operates with human like characteristics. This machine resembles a teddy bear and possesses long, multi-jointed arms that are equipped with tactile sensors allowing the robot to lift and carry humans with ease. RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) is completely covered in lightweight urethane foam, developed by TRI, to make it more comfortable and safe.
To make RIBA even more realistic, developers designed it to recognize faces, voices, and respond to spoken commands. The robot is able to recognize co-workers using video and audio data from nearby, and respond and adjust as needed to changes in its environment. No worries if RIBA is in a tight space either, it can just use its omni-directional wheels to maneuver around hospitals and assisted living facilities. The silent motor also makes it favorable in many hospitals.
RIBA was created as a possible solution for a serious problem facing Japan. There is an insufficient amount of nurses to care for the sick and elderly, and as the population continues to grow, the government is scrambling to find a way technology can help. Private research companies are also contributing, devoting time and money to create robots that can assist in the healthcare field.
The hard work has already paid off! Researchers first developed RI-MAN, a robot nurse created in 2006, that could only life about 40 lbs, but now RIBA, which can lift almost 100 lbs more, has better strength, perception, and is able to crunch data 15 times faster than before. RIBA is a sure win for hospitals across the world. Developers not only created an amazing piece of technology, but also decided not to make it very life-like in appearance; they believed that would only scare people. Instead patients should be prepared to be filled with joy when they catch a glimpse of its friendly, teddy bear face.