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bearing the burden

Giant robot bear nurse part of 'new approach' to elderly care (no, really)

It’s designed to help lift elderly people in and out of bed. We’re not entirely sure why it’s been designed to look like a bear.

YOU WOULD, PERHAPS, want to have a quick, quiet chat with your grandmother before introducing her to this member of her care-giving team…

bear Riken Riken

Scientists at Japanese research institute Riken have developed an experimental nursing care robot, capable of lifting a patient into a wheelchair or helping someone who can’t stand up under their own power.

According to a press release announcing the development, ‘ROBEAR’ could “supplement Japan’s need for new approaches to care-giving”.

The new version of the robot is a successor to two previous efforts. This one is much lighter – at just 140 kilos. It’s also got a lighter touch, and has been designed to “exert force in a gentle way”.

Sensor technology means the ‘ROBEAR’ can be relied upon not to drop anyone, or hurt them as it lifts them, according to its creators.

robear Riken Riken

The sensors, according to Riken, “allow for gentle movements, ensuring that the robot can perform power-intensive tasks such as lifting patients without endangering them”.

It avoids falling over through the use of legs that can be extended when necessary for lifting a patient but retracted to allow the robot to maneuver through tight spaces such as doorways.

With a rapidly increasing elderly population, Japan has been looking at new approaches to assist care-giving staff. 

Again, according to the research institute:

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.

All very admirable… But at no point in their press material do they explain why it’s been designed AS A BEAR.

Read: A new hotel in Australia lets you dine with lions and take a bath next to bears

Read: Video captures bear walking around upright like a human 

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