The nation of Japan has led the world in the field of advanced robotics, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise how they are adopting the use of nursing-care robots. There are many Japanese firms who believe that is lots of potential in the use of the “carerobos” who watch look after their elderly. More than 25% of their population is over the age of 65, which is the highest percentage of any nation in the OECD. Because of this demand, there is a shortage of care workers. Fortunately, many Japanese already had a cultural affinity for robots. This national outlook has made it easier to implement nursing-care robots.
Future Plans for These Robots
This market is relatively small at the moment. Even though the government is expecting to more than triple for the years 2015- 2020, to the around ¥54.3bn ($480m), it is still quite a way below revenues from service and industrial robots. The biggest reason for this is expense; not many people can afford having their very own robot. Private firms have to rely on partial government subsidies in order to create and develop them. And also their primary customer is nursing homes, which are also receiving government subsidies. Still there are about 5,000 nursing-care institutions currently testing robots.
Yoshiyuki Sankai, who is the founder of Cyberdyne, which is a robotics firm that is making the most expensive of this gear, remains undeterred. “When Steve Jobs invented the personal computer there wasn’t a market for it,” he points out. He has successfully persuades private health-insurance companies like AIG to assist in covering costs for many of his products.
Lots of AI Care Products Already in Place
At Shintomi nursing home and other places, a lot of this equipment has helped workers move, lift, and even monitor residents. There are beds from Panasonic, who is a builder of appliances, which split in two, allowing one half to turn into a useful wheelchair. And then there is a lumbar-support suit, made by Cyberdyne, which is designed to respond to bioelectric signals on the wearer’s body and assist care staff while they life and bend. Sensors that are place above beds serve to alert care workers whenever a patient moves too close to the bed’s edge and is in danger of falling to the floor. At some care homes, there are excretion sensors which monitor intestinal movements in order to predict whenever patients may need to use the lavatory.
The robots that are designed to communicate and offer companionship are one of the most popular at the Shintomi nursing home. Paro, which is a baby harp seal that was created by Intelligent System, a Japanese company, is designed to respond to sound and touch, and it will turn to and even nuzzle anyone who strokes or talks to it. Sony’s Aibo, which is a robo-dog that was initially created as a gizmo for people who lived large throughout Japan’s bubble years, is now becoming a pet for the elderly.
There are multi-purpose robots like Pepper look particularly promising. Even in other kinds of businesses, Pepper has specialized in great customer service. And in nursing homes it will talk to patients and it will also monitor their corridors at night – and it will run exercise classes as well.
However, robot technology still needs more development to replace the care that is given by humans. “That will not happen until they have sontaku,” emphasizes Yukari Sekiguchi, who the manager at Shintomi, making a reference to the Japanese notion of comprehending by implication.
In any event, we should eagerly look for more in the near future from nursing care robots.