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Meet the Robot Bear Who Will Care for Japan’s Elderly 

by Rafi Schwartz

February 25, 2015
image via youtube screen capture

I don’t quite understand how one makes the leap from “elder care” to “mechanized smiling bear” but that, evidently, is what got us to this: A super-strong robot with the cartoonish face of a bear, designed to help look after Japan’s aging population.

This week, Japan’s Riken Institute unveiled their “Robear,” the latest in a series of advanced robotics projects (all bear-themed) that create machines to lift elderly or otherwise immobile patients from their beds or chairs. Why a robot? As per the Riken Institute:

With its rapidly increasing elderly population, 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 bed into a wheelchair, and this is a major cause of lower back pain. Robots are well-suited to this task, yet none have yet been deployed in care-giving facilities.

As Robear’s lead researcher, Toshiharu Mukai, told Agence France-Presse

"The polar cub-like look is aimed at radiating an atmosphere of strength, geniality and cleanliness at the same time. We voted for this design among options presented by our designer. We hope to commercialise [sic] the robot in the not-too distant future."

When Mukai considers “geniality and cleanliness” others might call “creepy nightmare-fuel.” But watching Robear in action, you do get a sense of how the big guy could actually make a positive difference for those in his ursine charge:

人と柔らかく接しながら力仕事を行なう高機能ロボット via youtube user rikenchannel

The Robear weighs just over three hundred pounds, and is built to allow for soft, gentle movements while lifting heavy objects. He probably won’t compete in Japan’s upcoming Robot Olympics, but it’s possible you’ll find Robear helping care for patients sooner than you’d expect.

image via youtube screen capture

 

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Meet the Robot Bear Who Will Care for Japan’s Elderly