Japan’s teddy bear nurse robot helps lift bedridden patients

IDG News Service | Feb 23, 2015

Japan's Riken research institute is developing a robot that looks like a cartoon polar bear to help move elderly and bedridden patients into wheelchairs and beds.

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If a giant robot bear picking you up doesn’t scare you, perhaps you should consider growing old in Japan.

State-backed research center Riken is developing a robot that looks like a cartoon polar bear to help move elderly and bedridden patients into wheelchairs and beds.

Robear has giant padded arms and is the latest in a line of prototype nurse robots that are designed to take some of the backbreaking work of caregivers. In Japan, these caregivers must lift patients an average of 40 times per day.

Unlike earlier prototypes, Robear is capable of gentler movements. It has capacitance-type tactile sensors that feed data to its actuators—which can quickly sense any resistance to exerted force from the bodies of patients.

((Robear weighs a little over 300 pounds and is nearly 5 feet tall. The robot also has six-axis torque sensors, cameras, a microphone and 27 degrees of freedom, or axes of motion.))

It still requires human control though either by manually guiding its arm or through a linked Android tablet. Robear can lift up to 176 pounds and operates for about four hours on a full charge of its batteries.

Riken is not looking to commercialize the robot, but rather it hopes the technologies could go into a practical nursing-care robot in the future.

With reporting by Tim Hornyak in Tokyo, Melissa Aparicio, IDG News Service.