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?