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Robotic Bears to Aid Japanese Nursing Shortage

| 28 Aug 2009 21:17
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As the Japanese population gradually ages, the country is looking to new methods to take care of its elderly inhabitants. Today's solution? Robotic bears.

It's not as grisly as you think, however. No one is feeding the elderly to these mechanical ursines.

Instead, the bears (dubbed RIBA, or Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) are designed to help Japan's nurses lift people in and out of bed and on and off of the toilet. Since Japan faces a shortage of nurses able to aid in the care of the elderly, RIBA is one attempt at using technology to fill in the gaps.

RIBA is constructed from an "advanced lightweight urethane foam" and a number of tactile sensors that allow the robot to shift and balance its load much like a person would.

And why does the robot sport the head of a cartoon bear? Designers at Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research feel that attempts to make the robot resemble a human would only result in disconcerting robots that frighten people.

Not that the idea of these things becoming sentient during the night and deciding to crush our loved ones with their mighty robo-bear arms isn't frightening, or anything.

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