Oct
05
2007

Robo-care: Japanese robots will help the elderly, disabled

Robo-feeder: A new robotic arm product -- My Spoon -- is able to allow elderly and disabled people to feed themselves without the help of another. (Photo courtesy of Secom Co.)
Robo-feeder: A new robotic arm product -- My Spoon -- is able to allow elderly and disabled people to feed themselves without the help of another. (Photo courtesy of Secom Co.)
We’ve recently had stories here about new Japanese robots doing some cool things: dancing, tasting food and identifying objects on the streets. But here’s an especially cool and practical new application for robot technology.

Secom Co. this week demonstrated its new robot product – My Spoon – which is able to feed elderly or disabled people with a mechanical arm wielding a spoon or fork. The operator needs to control a joystick, just like on a video game, to maneuver the arm to bring food to the eater’s mouth.

It’s the first application of robot technology in Japan’s increasing aging community. Other applications being discussed include robotic wheelchairs that drive themselves, remote-controlled beds and easy-entry cars.

With the feeding robot, about 300 have already been sold to be used by consumers. The cost is about $3,500 each.

And developers think there will only continue to be more need for such technological advances as older people make up a greater percentage of the population and families become more spread out geographically.

Here are some other snippets of robo-technology being proposed in Japan:

• The intelligent wheelchair uses a positioning system to automatically travel between preset destinations and uses sensors to detect obstacles or safety concerns along the way.

• A different robotic wheelchair will respond to vocal commands like “forward,” “back,” “right” or “left.”

• As an aide to caregivers, a full-body suit being developed for them to wear will assist in lifting people they need to hoist. A system of 22 air pumps will inflate the suit and provide back-up for them their lifting efforts.

However, several press accounts on these innovations report that older Japanese people are not embracing the new technology too fast. They prefer to have traditional, human-provided care. Does that surprise you? What do you think about robots providing care to the elderly and disabled?

Your rating: None Average: 3 (4 votes)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

jinzo's picture
jinzo says:

I think the spoon feeding arm is good idea but may need more work to ensure consumers will buy the product.

posted on Sun, 03/16/2008 - 5:16pm
jinzo's picture
jinzo says:

I am very impressed with all the robotic aids for disabled and elderly people in Japan. It would be fantastic if Australia could acquire this sought of technology. My only concern is disadvantaged people may not be able to afford these types of luxurys. But I am sure as the future approaches more and more technology for the disabled and elderly will become more accessable and inexpensive.

cheers!

posted on Mon, 03/24/2008 - 8:42pm
nat's picture
nat says:

I think that is a very good idea the only bad thing is if the robot breaks it may not be able to help the person and they may not be able to get help.

posted on Tue, 03/25/2008 - 10:00am
bryan kennedy's picture

Agreed nat. These devices need to have some sort of failsafe mechanisms that send a possible emergency alert if they break down. But wait...how does something that's broken send a message? Hmmm...It's an interesting problem to think about. Anyone have any ideas?

posted on Tue, 03/25/2008 - 10:26am
jinzo's picture
jinzo says:

Maybe the Robot could run on sort of back-up motor or solar powered battery.It will be interesting to see how they overcome these problems.

posted on Tue, 03/25/2008 - 8:01pm
shanee's picture
shanee says:

Thats really great. a robot to help out the ederly...now thats a revolution!

posted on Wed, 03/26/2008 - 9:06am
Bounty's picture
Bounty says:

This has got to be the way forward, of course people will always be needed at least to oversee such robots, and to provide the human touch, the thing is that the social care bill could be greatly reduced and carers time and energy could be better utilised elsewhere, especially if other forms of assistive technology are made available

posted on Tue, 02/16/2010 - 5:23pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i think this is bad because this is ruing our ecosystems
more mechains more factories less trees humans die

posted on Sun, 05/09/2010 - 1:06pm
 Facts About Africa's picture

It would be fantastic if Australia could acquire this sought of technology. My only concern is disadvantaged people may not be able to afford these types of luxurys.

posted on Mon, 05/10/2010 - 12:25am

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