The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), an agency within the New Zealand government, is investing $150,000 over three years into two collaborations that will develop robots to assist the elderly and patients recovering from strokes.
First, the University of Auckland’s Bioengineering Institute and Callaghan Innovation will work with Japan’s Shinshu University to improve an exoskeleton designed to help stroke patients regain mobility.
The second collaboration see the University of Auckland’s Robotics Research Group and the University of Canterbury work with Japanese experts to design a lightweight robotic arm.
Both New Zealand and Japan have aging populations, and robots are seen as one obvious way to care for that growing demographic. Recent studies show 40 percent of Japan?s population will be older than 65 by 2060. And the rehabilitation robot market is expected to grow from $43.3 million to $1.8 billion by 2020, according to a study from ResearchMoz, so these collaborative efforts make perfect sense.
“The fit for us is a good one with New Zealand’s expertise in software and human-robot interaction matching well with Japan’s strong hardware capability,” Bruce MacDonald, Associate Professor of the Robotic Research Group, tells 3News. He adds, “we want to help older people to be more independent and happier and more socially interactive using robots that can do simple tasks ? everything from reminding patients to take medication to providing a Skype calling service.”
“Japan is a key science and innovation partner for New Zealand,” says MBIE science investments general manager Dr Prue Williams. “This collaboration will enable Kiwi researchers to strengthen ties with our Japanese colleagues on an important topic for both countries. We are helping to maximize the critical contribution of science for our well-being and to strengthen New Zealand’s economic growth and prosperity.”
According to 3News, New Zealand researchers are working on a ‘motion controller’ for the Japan-designed exoskeleton (pictured left) that uses software and technology developed by New Zealand-based companies IMeasureU and StretchSense.
Familiarity with Healthcare Robotics
Neither side is dipping its toes into the healthcare robotics waters for the first time. Japan has long been a leader in robotics, and in March 2014, exoskeleton maker Cyberdyne went public by debuting on the Tokyo Stock Exchange?s Mothers market for startups. Cyberdyne plans to expand the reach of its HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) exoskeleton globally.
In 2013, the MBIE funded a healthbots project that combined hardware created in South Korea with software developed by Auckland University and other New Zealand companies. The iRobi robots were rolled out in Gore, New Zealand, becoming the country’s first healthcare service to use robots.
Small versions of the robots are designed for home use and remind people to take medication, provide entertainment, and can be used to call for help. The robots to make one-click Skype calls to family, friends or medical staff.
A larger robot, named Charlie, is stationed at Gore Health’s GP services to perform health checks on patients before they visit the doctor, who can receive information directly from the robot about a patient’s blood pressure and heart rate.
“Some of our older people absolutely bonded with them, and I think they’ve been a real source of company for them,” says Gore Health chief executive Karl Metzler. “We want to improve heath care and outcomes for the local population by using innovative health technology along with work-force skills development and process improvements.”
Healthcare Robotics 2014 Research Report
Healthcare in the U.S. is approaching $4 trillion annually. To support, enhance, and mitigate the healthcare burdens, our healthcare system is witnessing robotic medical technology entering hospital surgical suites, in-patient rooms, in-home patient care, and uses with emergency services and vehicles.
Robotics Business Review‘s special report “Healthcare Robotics 2014” analyzes new developments, trends, challenges and opportunities in the medical robotics sector. The report profiles leading healthcare robotics companies, features exclusive Q&As with leading executives, discusses the impact of the Affordable Care Act, and examines surgical robotics, robotic replacement for diminished or lost function, exoskeletons, robot-assisted recovery and rehabilitation, and personalized care for the elderly.
There are two ways to access “Healthcare Robotics: 2014”
2. All research reports are sold individually on the Robotics Business Review Store for $299 each.