Robots in Japan to Become Part of Nursing Workforce


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Robots are expected to take good care of about 80 percent of Japan’s elderly population by 2020. The plan is to stabilize the nursing workforce of the country, according to the Japanese government. With robots, the need for 370,000 caregivers may be resolved by 2025.

The general idea of the robotic workforce is composed by different robotic models with specific functions, such as models that can help patients get up from their beds and into their wheelchairs or models that can supervise the elderly in the bathrooms. But the government wants a broader range of potential applications of artificial intelligence and robotics to better serve senior citizens. One of the applications is the capability to aid a senior citizen when he/she 1needs to go to the bathroom.

“Robotics cannot solve all of these issues; however, robotics will be able to make a contribution to some of these difficulties,” said Dr. Hirohisa Hirukawa, the Director of Robot Innovation Research at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

The Robot Innovation Research has already worked on a project supported by the Japanese government to help 98 manufacturers evaluate robots for caregiving over the last five years. About 15 have been developed into commercial products. According to Dr. Hirukawa, robots capable of lifting have been deployed in only eight percent of nursing homes in the country because of the cost and mindset of people. Most people believe that the frontline of caregiving is about human beings providing care. Those who received care from robots did express resistance at first.

Developers have considered the cost and complexity of robots, so they decided to skip the human-like appearance and conversational capability of the models. Instead, they focused on the smart technology to aid people in particular scenarios. The next priorities of robot development for nursing include wearable mobile aid devices and the technology that can guide people to the restroom when it predicts that it is the right time.