?Henry Thorne, co-founder and CTO 4moms
Henry Thorne has been slipping robotic elements into baby car seats, cribs and stollers for almost a decade now. His 4moms juvenile product lineup is not one-hundred percent autonomous robots yet, but they are getting more robot-like with each new-model year.
Same goes for automakers and their ADAS-type (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) features. Bit by bit?to the tune of $11 billion annually?manufacturers are tying together their onboard car systems to perform more and more autonomously, popularly known as the connected car.
The next stage of ?robotedness? ? semi-autonomous ?co-pilot-type vehicles??is already being implemented on a wide scale and will fully evolve over the next decade.
See related: Oh Baby! 4moms Snags $41M in Funding
See related: Self-driving Automobiles: Robotics over Romance
See related: The Robot Effect: Its Surprising and Growing Influence on Consumer Products
To look at Panasonic?s recent lineup of healthcare products, rolling out under the new corporate brand slogan, A Better Life, A Better World, it would be easy to anoint the company as the uncontested owner of the automated healthcare crown.
Such an outpouring of assistive care is very important for a country like Japan, which has the highest proportion of older adults in the world, e.g. last year (2013) the Japanese bought more adult diapers than children?s diapers; a country where the average age of farmers is sixty-five.
Healthcare robotics is also a vital part of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe?s new policy dubbed the ?Robot Revolution,? aimed at reviving the Japanese economy and aggressively growing its manufacturing market by a target of 300 percent. Using current figures, that?s a projection of $24 billion.
Healthcare robotics in Japan is great for the population?and getting even better for business. In 2015, for example, Japan?s national insurance will begin to cover nursing robots.
And with which of Japan?s population segments could nursing robot nurses become a colossal hit? Again, the aged. A record-high 31.86 million people, or about a quarter of Japan, are over 65 years old, up 1.12 million from a year earlier, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
By the look, feel and performance of its healthcare products Panasonic appears to have an excellent handle on the fast rising tide of need for robot assistance directed at home care, institutional healthcare for rehabilitation, care for the handicapped as well as care for aged citizens?
Two years ago, Panasonic graced Tokyo beauty salons with the first-ever hair washing robot. The robot?s 16 fingers wash, shampoo and rinse out bubbles as its two arms move over a head scanning 3-dimensionally, and even remembering the head shape of each customer.
Although Panasonic has been in healthcare since the mid-90s, its first healthcare robot, Hospi, a hospital delivery porter, didn?t appear on the scene until 2004. Hospi was a decided dud: Panasonic sold only two in nearly ten years.
The positive fallout from the Hospi experience is that Panasonic didn?t sour on the machine, which is a good sign for the company?s level of overall commitment to healthcare robotics and ?robotedness? in related products. Hospi was reintroduced in 2013, and is now a distinct pillar in Panasonic?s new healthcare lineup.
Panasonic set about a re-do of its healthcare line, and recently showed those new wares at Tokyo?s 41st Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition, October 1 to 3, 2014.
HOSPI-R for 2014, the newest incarnation of the machine, is designed to transport medicines to patients and to take medical records to staff members. Each machine tops out at $100,000 and can tote over 40 lbs. at any one time.
There are now five Hospi robots operating in Matsushita Memorial Hospital in Moriguchi, Japan, where they’ve reduced delivery times by over 30 percent.
Manufacturing.net reports that Panasonic introduced three new products (from the above video):
?The “Resyone” is an electric care bed with a section that can be separated and transformed into a fully reclining electric wheelchair to help users get out of bed. The first product in the world to obtain global safety standard ISO13482 for service robots. Panasonic has already begun taking orders.
?Moreover, by using sensing technology, Panasonic’s “Mimamori System” can keep an eye on the facility inhabitants’ movement and breathing to make sure they are safe and sound.
Also being introduced is a prototype of self-reliance support robot, which helps users stand up, walk, and sit down.
Panasonic showcased a rehabilitation navigation system for hospitals and facilities, the “Digital Mirror,” now combined with rehabilitation training and evaluation system that comes equipped with cutting-edge 3D camera technology, as well as a rehabilitation training and evaluation system for tablets.
?And for facilities, Panasonic is demonstrating the “Aqua Heart J Series (prototype),” a barrier-free bath unit that was developed to help users be as independent as possible while taking a bath.
Endless “robotedness” opportunities
Around the robot health aides, Panasonic is introducing prototypes of equipment that help with rehabilitation: a barrier-free unit bath, new shower equipment, and a wide range of assistive products including toilets, sinks, kitchen, and building materials.
All of which may soon be given a “robot effect” transformation as healthcare needs mount.
RBR50 Company: Panasonic