Saturday, April 21, 2007

Rent a Robotic Exoskeleton for $590 per month!

Nursing-care, rehab robots gaining practical use
Kyodo News Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Robots are becoming active in the medical and welfare fields due to the labor shortage resulting from the increase in the number of elderly people and the falling birthrate.

A man walks with the help of a robotic suit developed by professor Yoshiyuki Sankai of the University of Tsukuba. KYODO PHOTO

Their increasing popularity is raising expectations that the domestic robot market will soar to 900 billion yen by 2025.

Secom Co., Japan's largest security service company, has marketed a prizewinning robot dubbed My Spoon, whose hand picks up food and carries it to the mouth if a lever is adjusted by the jaw.

A standard model is priced at 400,000 yen but can be purchased for about 40,000 yen if a buyer can get a subsidy from the Japanese Federation of Organizations of the Disabled Persons in Tokyo.

"I am pleased to have become able to eat together with my family," said one user, noting that without the robot, a family member would have to feed the user.

Yoshiyuki Sankai, a professor at the graduate school of the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture, has developed a cyborg-type robot suit.

If a wearer wants to move a limb, its motor, reading signals from the brain, will go into action, and the hands and legs will move together with the suit.

Its special feature is that the suit's hands and legs do not move on their own, but the person can move them at will, Sankai said.

A polio sufferer could walk, although with a limp, and even a person with a spinal disability could walk with its help, he said.

The professor has already tied up with Daiwa House Industry Co. and the company started constructing a manufacturing facility recently to produce 400 to 500 suits annually starting in 2008.

For an individual, the suit will be leased for 70,000 yen a month plus a maintenance fee.

According to an estimate by the Japan Robot Association, the scale of the domestic market for robots in the fields of medicine and welfare in 2025 will be 931 billion yen.

The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, an independent administration entity that is supporting robot development, said the target for the popularization of robots is 20 years from now, when the baby boom generation will enter their 80s.

"We want to make it available when the aging of society becomes serious," an official of the organization said.

No comments: