Japan pioneers use of robotics in caregiving

first_imgTOKYO – If you grow old in Japan, expect to be served food by a robot, ride a voice-recognition wheelchair or even possibly hire a nurse in a robotic suit – all examples of cutting-edge technology to care for the country’s rapidly graying population. With nearly 22 percent of Japan’s population already age 65 or older, businesses here have been rolling out everything from easy-entry cars to remote-controlled beds, fueling a care technology market worth some $1.08 billion in 2006, according to industry figures. At a home care and rehabilitation convention in Tokyo this week, buyers crowded around a demonstration of Secom Co.’s My Spoon feeding robot, which helps elderly or disabled people eat with a spoon- and fork-fitted swiveling arm. Operating a joystick with his chin, developer Shigehisa Kobayashi maneuvered the arm toward a block of silken tofu, deftly getting the fork to break off a bite-sized piece. The arm then returned to a preprogrammed position in front of the mouth, allowing Kobayashi to bite and swallow. A rubber and nylon “muscle suit” developed by the Tokyo University of Science helps keep the elderly active by providing support for the upper body, arms and shoulders. Powered by air pressure actuators, the prototype suit – which looks like an oversized life jacket – provides subtle backing to help older people lift heavy objects. The intelligent wheelchair TAO Aicle from Fujitsu Ltd. and Aisin Seiki Co. uses a positioning system to automatically travel to a preset destination, and uses sensors to detect and stop at red lights and to avoid obstacles. Another wheelchair designed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology responds to oral commands like “forward” and “back,” “right” and “left.” Then there are cars designed for easy entry for the wheelchair-bound or those with difficulty walking, like Toyota Motor Corp.’s Welcab series. Its slogan: “A car that’s more patient than your daughter.” Tired? Retire to a Lowland futon bed by Kaneshiro Tsuhso Inc. that can be adjusted into a reclining seat. And there’s help for caregivers, too. A full-body robotic suit developed by the Kanagawa Institute of Technology outside Tokyo is a massive contraption powered by 22 air pumps to help nurses hoist patients on and off their beds. Sensors attached to the user’s skin detects when muscles are trying to lift something heavy – and signals to the air pumps to kick in to provide support. Though the suit makes its wearer look a little like Robocop, a student who was easily lifted off a table in a demonstration said he felt comfortable during the test. “It doesn’t feel at all like I’m being lifted by a robot,” he said. “This feels so comfortable and very human.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas City“It’s all about empowering people to help themselves,” Kobayashi said. The Tokyo-based company has already sold 300 of the robots, which come with a price tag of $3,500. “We want to give the elderly control over their own lives,” he said. The rapidly aging population here has spurred a spate of concerns: a labor shortage, tax shortfalls, financial difficulties in paying the health bills and pensions of large numbers of elderly. Moreover, a breakdown of family ties in recent years means a growing number of older Japanese are spending their golden years away from the care traditionally provided by children and grandchildren. That’s where cutting-edge technology steps in. last_img read more

NO COHERENT PLAN FOR DISABLED IN BUDGET 2014 SAYS DONEGAL CAMPAIGNER

first_imgSpina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland (SBHI) has expressed disappointment at the Government’s failure to protect and invest in people with disabilities and their families in Budget 2014.Frank LarkinThe Donegal-based chairman of SBHI Frank Larkin SBHI said following on from comments by An Taoiseach last week, they were optimistic coming into this budget.“We were hopeful that there would be some flexibility and adjustment in the Budget statement. Recognition by the Taoiseach last week that people have had a really difficult time over the last number of years was most welcome. He also stated that the Cabinet was working on the fairest and most equitable budget possible. “However, there is little sign of this Budget being either fair or equitable for people with disabilities and their families. The disability movement has been hit hard by harsh outcomes of previous budgets, the social infrastructure that exists to support them has been decimated and the initiatives announced today do too little to reverse that. Yet again there has been no commitment from Government to support people with disabilities and their families.”“The Government has made several commitments to people with disabilities and their families over the last few years. There was the commitment made by both An Taoiseach and the Tánaiste prior to the General Election that disability was their number one social justice priority. There are the disability commitments in the Programme for Government 2010. And, there was the publication last July of the National Disability Implementation Plan. However, none of these commitments have been progressed in this budget.”SBHI welcomes some positive measures for people with disabilities and their families, including free GP care for under 5’s, €20m for community mental health services and additional funds for the housing adaptation grants.However they are disappointed to see the €113m savings from medical cards and the abolition of the telephone allowance. “This Budget and Government policy in general fails to coherently integrate people with disabilities into public service reform. This Budget again fails to meet people with disabilities ambition to live in the community with dignity and independence.“Economic concerns have overtaken the social in this Budget. Although the two realms remain firmly linked in reality, failure to begin the restoration of supports and services for people with disabilities has further disconnected them in practice. We need to develop strategic and sustainable plans for social inclusion, but the measures revealed today have weakened that opportunity.”“Disability, chronic illness and mental health needs are experienced by individuals and families across the life course. These people are all experiencing the effects of the on-going recession in addition to the challenges that they face related to their disability. Prioritising supports for this life contingency, given the existence of the implementation plan for the National Disability Strategy, is the most cost effective way of providing some ‘easing’ for people with disabilities and their families”.In conclusion, “We come out from under the IMF bailout in December, while there is no commitment to underpinning the priority social justice issue of disability and mental health as stated by Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore on the eve of the general election. People with disabilities and their families now clearly understand that government are not determined to keep their promise to them even now that we are out of the IMF bailout.”  NO COHERENT PLAN FOR DISABLED IN BUDGET 2014 SAYS DONEGAL CAMPAIGNER was last modified: October 15th, 2013 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:Budget 2014DisabilityFrank Larkinlast_img read more