A robotic support unit designed specifically to aid the elderly has been developed by the Bridgestone Corporation. The Nursing Power Support Unit is one of several job-specific robotic systems, and it uses rubber actuators - pneumatically controlled rubber muscles.
The new system was created to help address the problems faced by the elderly. Many countries are experiencing growing numbers of elderly, and therefore a greater number of people requiring special nursing care. At the same time, the number of young people, who have the physical strength that nursing care requires, is decreasing. As a result, it is anticipated that there will be a large increase in the nursing care of the elderly by the elderly.
The light-weight Nursing Power Support Unit is literally worn by the user, allowing the nurse to remain in physical contact with the patient. The easy-to-use equipment is controlled by the user's own body movements. The robotic equipment moves by computer-controlled inflation and deflation of the actuators. The computerized control unit reads the movements of the user and adjusts the rubber actuators accordingly.
In addition, the rubber actuators multiply the strength of an individual five times: 8 kg of force exerted by an individual is transformed to 40 kg of force by the unit. This will greatly reduce the amount of physical strength required to provide nursing care for the elderly.
Although the rubber actuators have been sold in the US, none of the end products developed using the actuator technology have been marketed in North America. Bridgestone plans to market such products in other countries, but has no specific timetable.
For more information, contact Trevor Hoskins, Bridgestone Corporation, 216-379-6280.