Pneumatic muscle suits and a walking stick that behaves like a guide dog competed for attention with an industrial robot that can paint fingernails at a huge exposition in Tokyo on Thursday.
In a country where one-quarter of the 128 million-strong population are older than 65, innovations that can make life easier for the elderly or their caregivers are potentially big business and the subject of a much research.
A “muscle suit” that gives extra power to a carer to help them lift a bed-bound patient was one of the star attractions at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo, which was to run until yesterday.
Worn like a backpack, the device is powered by compressed air and takes some of the strain out of lifting an elderly or disabled person by giving extra muscle power to the back and hips.
The machine, developed by the Tokyo University of Science and a nursing care company, is activated by a tube in the wearer’s mouth, adding lift when the operator breathes in. Exhaling switches the power off.
“It feels like you’re using about half the power to lift people,” said caregiver Norikatsu Kimura, who took part in a trial at elderly care firm Asahi Sun Clean. “The assistance gives me relief as we are always worried about hurting our lower waist.”
“I’ve seen many workers who were willing to continue this job, but had to stop because of hip pain,” he said.
The device, whose compressed air power makes it safe to use around water — vital because of the need to lift patients in and out of the bath — weighs 10kg, including a 2kg air tank.
Among the 300 companies at the four-day exhibit was NSK Ltd, which was showcasing a walking stick-like device to help visually impaired users get around by giving them physical support and guidance on directions.
The LIGHBOT, which looks a little like a cane standing on a tiny cart, can guide a visually-impaired user to their destination and watches out for dangers along the way, including trip hazards such as holes or walls, and head-height obstacles like branches.
“There is a severe shortage of guide dogs and in any case, some people cannot keep animals in their apartments,” Mayuko Mori from NSK said.
She said no decision had been made yet on putting the device into production, but field-testing in hospitals or other institutions was expected to start soon.
Funai Electric Co Ltd was showcasing a walking assistance cart that it hopes to begin selling in 2015.
The appliance is a modern twist on the traditional shopping cart, where onboard motors give assistance on uphill climbs and apply a steadying brake on the way back down. GPS equipment can help family members locate a wandering shopper.
On the lighter side of the expo, Toyo Riki demonstrated a “Robo Nailist,” an industrial robot arm which uses its incredible precision to apply layers of nail polish that it then decorates with miniscule crystal rhinestones.
“Many people imagine ‘industrial robots’ are doing welding work in big factories, but we displayed this just to show how dexterous they are,” company director Narito Hosomi said.
Polytronics Technology Corp (聚鼎科技) yesterday announced that it is buying Henkel AG’s thermal clad dielectric material (TCLAD) business division for US$26 million as the Taiwanese firm aims to improve its technology, product portfolio and revenue performance. Polytronics, headquartered in the Hsinchu Science Park (新竹科學園區), is a supplier of protection components and heat dissipation materials. The firm entered the metallic heat-dissipation substrate market in 2007 and developed a unique solventless production process. Its board of directors approved signing an agreement with Henkel to acquire the German chemical firm’s TCLAD division in the US. The purchase includes all assets and business interests, including equipment,
SIZE MATTERS: Medium-sized hotels that do not have the support of parent groups are more vulnerable and are forced to take action, a REPro Knight Frank researcher said About 50 hotels across Taiwan are seeking to exit the market as they succumb to the bleak business outlook amid international travel restrictions imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Yomi Hotel (優美飯店) on Minsheng E Road, Sec 1, in Taipei is seeking to transfer ownership with an asking price of NT$950 million (US$32.15 million) and a pledge for a lease contract that guarantees a 3 percent return. The budget hotel, with room rates that start from NT$1,400 per night, maintains normal operations, but has been struggling since March, when the government placed restrictions on inbound and outbound travel. Occupancy rates for hotels in
With the US dollar expected to weaken in the next 12 months due to near-zero interest rates, investors should consider purchasing US corporate bonds, Standard Chartered Bank Taiwan Ltd (渣打台灣銀行) said on Thursday. The bank said that the US Federal Reserve since last month has been buying bonds issued by US companies to curb default rates. The US dollar is forecast to be weaker against the pound, the euro and the yen, as well as the Canadian dollar, the Swedish krona and the Swiss franc, as the greenback lacks high investment returns after the Fed in March slashed the benchmark interest rate
A Bollywood actor’s face tattooed on his arm, Sandeep Bacche’s devotion shocks few in India where stars enjoy semi-divine status, but even there the hallowed silver screen might be losing its shine to streaming services and pandemic fears. “Whenever things get better and theaters begin operations, I will watch three movies a day for sure just as a way to celebrate,” said the Mumbai rickshaw driver, who is recovering from the virus himself. However, others might not join the party. With cinemas shut for months due to a COVID-19 lockdown, and little prospect they will reopen soon, frustrated Bollywood producers have turned to