Nine years ago, when asked if a robot could carry a person the answer was, “Well, each arm can carry about 10kg. Do you weigh 20kg?” Although a robot may have looked tall and mighty, it wasn’t actually all that strong. But researchers don’t give up so easily, and one reporter’s secret dream of being carried like a princess by a robot has now become a reality. A reporter from Impress Robot Watch traveled to RIKEN‘s Nagoya branch to experience her long-awaited robot hug thanks to RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance).
RIBA has undergone a slight improvement since its official unveiling in late August 2009. The fore arms, which come in direct contact with the person RIBA is lifting and moving, are smaller and have a more comfortable shape than before. Research subjects complained that their back hurt a little when being lifted, so the arms have a more planar shape which provides more support. Better head and neck support are also being looked at, possibly by increasing the size of the robot’s shoulders.
Although the robot looks quite big in pictures, it seems small in person at only 140cm (4’7″) tall, and its motors are very quiet. The arms maintain their position even when powered off, which reduces the motor noise and saves battery life. It gives an impression of security that you might not get from a person lifting you, who may lose their balance or strength. Up close, you notice that the robot has some blue LEDs in its eyes, which are slightly unsettling. And the system still has problems lifting people into and out of wheelchairs, so better motion planning behaviors and assistance from human nurses will likely be necessary.
RIKEN also displayed some cool 3D printed miniatures of the robot, which even had a cutaway to reveal the internal mechanisms (video and photos after the break).
[source: Impress Robot Watch (JP)]
(A Patient’s POV when being lifted by RIBA)
Impress Robot Watch