Japanese create teddy bear robot nurse

Researchers have unveiled an improved nurse robot called Riba that can lift patients from beds and wheelchairs. It has a teddy bear face.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
Nurse robot Riba, from a Reuters video on YouTube Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Japanese researchers have created a robot nurse that can lift elderly patients from wheelchairs and beds. Naturally, it looks like a giant teddy bear.

Riba, short for Robot for Interactive Body Assistance, was developed by the state-run Riken research center. Promoters are calling it the world's first robot to lift people in its arms.

Riba can move patients weighing up to 134 pounds in its foam-padded paws and transfer them from beds to wheelchairs. Its cute face is designed to make the 400-pound robot less imposing. Very kawaii.

Riba can also recognize faces and voices and respond to voice commands. There are no plans for immediate commercialization, according to Riken, but it will be deployed to hospitals over the next five years.

The big bear is an upgrade to Riken's Ri-Man robot developed in 2006 that could only lift about 40 pounds. Riba also moves quicker than Ri-Man, thanks to better processors.

Japan has one of the world's most rapidly aging populations, a driving factor in the development of sophisticated robots.

The more robots there are, the less pressure there will be on the shrinking human workforce to care for elderly citizens.

Fewer people, more robot teddy bears. Only in Japan!

(Via Pink Tentacle, Reuters)