In a development sure to drive Stephen Colbert apoplectic, the Japanese national laboratory RIKEN has announced the development of robotic nurses that look like bears. Called Robot for Interactive Body Assistance (RIBA), the robot was designed to help a country facing the dual problem of a shortage of nurses and a rapidly aging population.
RIBA’s primary function involves helping nurses lift patients onto and off of beds, wheelchairs, and toilets. RIBA weighs 400 pounds, but can only lift up to 135 pounds, so the sumo wrestler retirement home might have to wait for a newer model before picking one up.
The robot is covered in a soft, synthetic skin, and processes visual and audio cues so it can react in real time to changing situations. RIBA also takes vocal commands and can recognize faces and voices.
And why a bear? Apparently making the robot look like a person scared people, but the cuddly bear look soothed frightened onlookers. Hey, if it works for robot bartenders and robot medics, maybe a bear shape for the robot nurse isn’t such a crazy idea.
Check out this video to see RIBA in action:
[via Pink Tentacle]