The nurse picks the lady up from the wheelchair and gently places her on the bed. The nurses name is Robear and he isn’t human. It is a bear-like robot that weighs 309 pounds, making it a lot lighter than its 507-pound predecessor. For the nursing fraternity this nurse couldn’t have come at a better time because this robot that can lift patients on command, onto and out of beds or wheelchairs, while at the same time saving nurses’ backs and improving patient care and safety.
Ageing populations are an increasing concern in Japan where hospital staff and carers are expected to lift patients about 40 times a day, which is strenuous and can cause lower-back pain. Robear has mechanical arms that are able to carry up to 80kg of weight and also has roller legs that can extend and retract from a base as necessary when bending to lift a patient or when manoeuvring through tight spaces like doorways.
The robot is powered by software and advanced actuators (a type of motor that controls mechanisms). Robear has three different types of sensors, including Smart Rubber capacitance-type tactile sensors entirely of rubber. This enables it to move both slowly and smoothly with very gentle movements that do not jolt the patient in its arms. Riken Japan’s Brain Science Institute and rubber manufacturer Sumitomo Riko who built the experimental robot bear nurse say that, so far, robots have never been used for this purpose in any hospital.