Japanese firm looking to robots to help with manpower issue

Published: 4:02 AM, October 23, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, October 24, 2013

With many countries in the developed world facing an ageing population and a scarcity of manpower to care for the aged, can robotics and technology provide the solution?

One company in Japan thinks it is possible. The firm is preparing to roll out a slew of robots that could have come straight from a science-fiction movie, such as a robotic leg that is attached to a person’s vertebrae and his real leg, and is controlled by signals from the human brain so that the person can walk with an almost-natural gait. This robotic limb will be available for rent from next year in Japan.

Kinoshita Care, a Japanese company specialising in senior care facility design, is also planning to introduce a robotic bed (picture) in 2016, part of which can be detached, with the user still on it, to become a wheelchair.

Speaking at the Ageing Asia Healthcare Technologies Masterclass yesterday, Kinoshita Care Executive Director Hitoshi Fukumoto said the Japanese government, faced with a rapidly ageing population, has been making a concerted push for such technology to be developed and made available commercially to the rest of the world.

It plans to create safety standards for the use of robots and has set up an institute for safety inspection last December.

Four areas of focus have been selected: Transfer care — which involves moving a person safely — mobility assistance, continence care and dementia care. In dementia care, for instance, a robot can remind a patient or his caregiver to take medication.