This is one of the coolest robots I’ve ever seen. RIBA — short for “Robot for Interactive Body Assistance” — was developed by researchers at Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) and Tokai Rubber Industries. Designed primarily to assist nurses by lifting patients in and out of their beds and wheelchairs (as well as on and off the toilet), the 400 pound (180kg) robot can safely pick up and carry people weighing as much as 135 pounds (61 kgs).
The robotic bear has long, multi-jointed arms embedded with an array of tactile sensors that help it optimize the lifting and carrying of humans. For safety purposes, RIBA’s entire body is covered in a soft skin molded from an advanced lightweight urethane foam, which is designed to ensure the comfort of patients. In addition, the robotic bear can also recognize faces and voices, as well as respond to spoken commands. Using visual and audio data from its surroundings, RIBA can identify co-workers, determine the position of those nearby, and respond flexibly to changes in the immediate environment.
This is a great invention for a country like Japan, who are facing an impending shortage of nurses as the population grows older. Technology is regarded by some as the solution to this problem, and a considerable amount of government and private research is being devoted to developing robots capable of working in the healthcare field. RIBA’s creators say they chose the friendly teddy bear appearance to put patients at ease. Attempting to make the robot look human would only frighten people, they claimed.