A high number of the elderly population face problems with an insufficient amount of healthcare workers able to care for them. How can we solve this? Currently, human-like robots are being built and utilized for health care in Japan. These robotic machines are used to perform physical tasks such as moving patients or medical equipment. Smaller machines are used as companion robots to combat inactivity and loneliness.
An example of this is the robotic nurse bear. Japanese robotics engineers from Riken and Sumitomo Labs have made a groundbreaking invention; A robotic bear capable of helping elderly patients. This bear is utilized to transfer a patient to and from their wheelchair, lift a patient from the floor or a standing position, turn patients in bed, and even carry the patient. Each robot serves its own role in the Japanese healthcare system.
Robot Paro is designed to have a positive psychological reaction for those that interact with it. It is a therapeutic baby harp seal robot developed by Takanori Shibata, a student of the Intelligent System Research Institute. It took more than 10 years to develop Paro and earned $20 million in government support. Paro is intended to be cute and lifelike for its calming effect on patients in nursing homes and hospitals. This robot is shown to have similar effects to that of animal therapy. Nonetheless, there are only 5,000 in use globally, including 3,000 in Japan.
The robot called Pepper functions in a more clinical way. It is used to schedule appointments, set reminders, read patterns in labs or vitals, and educate its patients. Pepper is an interactive humanoid robot that is capable of talking, moving, playing music, games, taking pictures, and more! There is a 3D camera in the robot's eyes that can detect a person from up to 10 feet away. Then, Pepper uses cameras in the mouth and forehead for facial detection. Pepper can tell if you are sad, happy, neutral or angry and react accordingly.
Robot Disnow is used for helping inactive and lonely patients with reminders to take their medication, educational games, receive phone calls, and more. Disnow makes it possible for the patient to communicate with their family or doctor without having to leave the bed. Disnow will even sing and help its patient with exercise!
Artificial intelligence can also be used as a platform for patient education. Patients will be capable of accessing hundreds of videos explaining disease management, medication uses, side effects, support groups, and emotional support lines. This function operates in any language and no matter where the patient is. Whether it be at home, outpatient settings, or in the hospital.
However, these robots are not only being implemented in Japan. Robots are already being appropriated in hospitals across the United States to improve current medical practices. An example of this is a robot called Tugs, which is responsible for transportation of linens, medications, lab specimens, and more. These machines replace the need for nurses to execute such deliveries.
Written by Senior Tech News journalist Haley Sanderson 2018