In September 2008, RIKEN officially ceased development on their nurse robot RI-MAN, designed to lift patients out of bed and wheelchairs. Setting out to improve the robot, RIKEN has created RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance). Inheriting RI-MAN’s functionality, RIBA can detect faces and voices with its embedded sensors but can process sensor data up to 15 times faster thanks to a more powerful CPU. Additionally, RIBA has improved strength enabling it to hold patients weighing up to 61kg (135 lbs), whereas RI-MAN was only able to hold 18.5kg (40 lbs). RIKEN contends this is the world’s best strength-weight ratio for robots.
RIBA, which weighs 180kg (400 lbs) and stands 140cm (4’6″) tall, was made to look like a cuddly teddy bear to avoid frightening patients. RIBA has tactile sensors embedded in its arms underneath pliant urethane foam rubber developed by partner Tokai Rubber, which detects slippage and helps hold a person comfortably.
Motor noise has been reduced from 60.0dB to 53.4dB, for more quiet operation, and RIBA can move autonomously, following human workers by itself. It can also be moved around by human workers through a haptic guidance system by simply pushing it, so as not to require any special devices. Moving on a set of omni-directional wheels, RIBA should have no trouble navigating tight spaces.
Robots designed to help cope with Japan’s aging population will need to be more productive and reliable than ever. In the future, RIKEN plans to advance the study of nursing care robots by improving the robot’s lifting strength and its ability to deal with more complex environments. They plan to implement trials in nursing homes in the next few years.
[source: Pink Tentacle]