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RIBA-II: The next generation care-giving robot

Date:
August 3, 2011
Source:
RIKEN
Summary:
A new robot using high-precision tactile sensors and flexible motor control technology has taken Japan one step closer to its goal of providing high-quality care for its growing elderly population. The new robot can lift a patient up to 80 kilograms in weight off floor-level bedding and into a wheelchair, freeing care facility personnel of one of their most difficult and energy-consuming tasks.

Locations of Smart Rubber sensors in RIBA-II.
Credit: Image courtesy of RIKEN

A new robot using high-precision tactile sensors and flexible motor control technology has taken Japan one step closer to its goal of providing high-quality care for its growing elderly population. Developed by researchers at RIKEN and Tokai Rubber Industries (TRI), the new robot can lift a patient up to 80 kg in weight off floor-level bedding and into a wheelchair, freeing care facility personnel of one of their most difficult and energy-consuming tasks.

With an elderly population in need of nursing care projected to reach a staggering 5.69 million by 2015, Japan faces an urgent need for new approaches to assist care-giving personnel. One of the most strenuous tasks for such personnel, carried out an average of 40 times every day, is that of lifting a patient from a futon at floor level into a wheelchair. Robots are well-suited to this task, yet none have yet been deployed in care-giving facilities.

In 2009, the RIKEN-TRI Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research (RTC), a joint project established in 2007 and located at the Nagoya Science Park in central Japan, unveiled a robot called RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) designed to assist in this task. The first robot capable of lifting a patient from a bed to a wheelchair and back, RIBA charted a new course in the development of care-giving robots, yet functional limitations prevented its direct commercialization.

RTC's new robot, named RIBA-II, overcomes these limitations with added power and functionality. New joints in the robot's base and lower back enable RIBA-II to crouch down and lift a patient off a futon at floor level, the most physically strenuous task for care-givers and one that RIBA was not able to do. RIBA-II accomplishes this task using newly-developed Smart Rubber sensors, the first capacitance-type tactile sensors made entirely of rubber. Printed in sheets and fitted onto the robot's arms and chest, the sensors enable high-precision tactile guidance and allow RIBA-II to quickly detect a person's weight from touch alone, guaranteeing patient safety.

In the future, RTC researchers will work together with partner nursing care facilities to test RIBA-II and further tailor it to the needs of care-givers and their patients, while also developing new applications in areas such as rehabilitation. TRI aims to bring care-giving robots like RIBA-II to the market in the near future, promising support for aging populations in countries around the world.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by RIKEN. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

RIKEN. "RIBA-II: The next generation care-giving robot." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110802085819.htm>.
RIKEN. (2011, August 3). RIBA-II: The next generation care-giving robot. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110802085819.htm
RIKEN. "RIBA-II: The next generation care-giving robot." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110802085819.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

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