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A Robotic Nurse with a Bearish Grin

Force feedback sensors on the ROBEAR robot encourage soft handling of patients. (Photo credit: RIKEN.)
Force feedback sensors on the ROBEAR robot encourage soft handling of patients. (Photo credit: RIKEN.)

Researchers at the RIKEN-SRK Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research in Nagoya, Japan have developed a robotic nurse that looks like an adorable bear. The robot, called ROBEAR, can help nursing staff with the heavy work: lifting patients from beds and wheelchairs, and providing physical support to patients who need help to stand.

“We really hope that this robot will lead to advances in nursing care, relieving the burden on care-givers today,” said Toshiharu Mukai, leader of the Robot Sensor Systems Research Team. “We intend to continue with research toward more practical robots capable of providing powerful yet gentle care to elderly people.”

ROBEAR builds on the strengths of its predecessors — RIBA and RIBA II — which were also designed with a cute bear in mind. ROBEAR is approximately 200 pounds lighter than the RIBA II, but is still quite hefty, weighing in at 308 pounds. Researchers say that despite its imposing stature, the robot is designed with a gentle touch in mind. The actuators used in the robot feature a low gear ratio, which allows them to move with speed and precision. Rubber capacitance touch sensors on the robot also encourage softer movement, so that the robot can lift patients without causing injuries. ROBEAR also features a smaller base that the RIBA II, and instead maintains stability using extendable legs.

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