November 20, 2015      

Japan is well-known for its development of elderly care robots, but apparently its own government hasn’t been very impressed. The problem, according to the Japanese government, is that the “companies developing the robots did not sufficiently incorporate the opinions of relevant people, some of their products were too large or too expensive and consequently not used.”

To fix this, according to ASIAONE, the government is building 10 development centers throughout Japan that will be run by “development support coordinators” who have experience in both nursing care and robotics technologies. At these facilities, nursing care workers and the elderly will be able to share their thoughts on how these patient care robots should work.

The Japanese government said this will promote the development of user-friendly robots that “meet people’s actual needs.” These robots will be designed to help elderly people live independently and reduce the burden on caregivers, by providing mobility and toilet assistance and helping with lifting and bathing.

The development centers will also serve as locations for several companies with different strengths to consider jointly developing robots and as places for the public to learn more about nursing care robots.

Graphic: Japan News/ANN

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry reports there were 1.71 million nursing care workers in fiscal 2013. Although 2.53 million workers will be needed in fiscal 2025, a shortfall of about 380,000 is expected. Nursing care robots to help reduce the burden on workers and prevent them from quitting.

According to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and other organisations, the nursing care robot market in the country was worth about 1 billion yen (S$11.6 million) in 2012 but is expected to be worth more than 400 billion yen in 2035.

This is the latest example of how robots are being used to create better lives for the elderly. The Singapore government recently unveiled the RoboCoach robot trainer to help seniors exercise more. The robot trainer offers personalized workout routines for seniors and makes sure the exercises are done correctly to maximize the benefits.

Developed by students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, RoboCoach “has a rosy red face, blue eyes, two teeth, and mimics human movements.” RoboCoach coaches the elderly in performing 15 types of arm exercise each week, recognizing a human voice that tells it to start the workout. RoboCoach will even slow down the pace during group workouts to make sure everyone can catch up.

Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, says 25 venues will get a RoboCoach. At press time, the first robot trainer had been deployed to the Lions Befrienders Senior Activity Centre.