Japan develops robot ‘patients’ for medical research and training
Sensor-studded humanoids help improve health care
SAYUKA NAKAJIMA, Nikkei staff writer
TOKYO — He is male, in his 60s, 165cm tall with a weight of 50kg. His only job is to help test various kinds of medical-care equipment, such as beds and lifts. He does this by assuming sitting and lying positions, which he does through the adjustment of the 22 movable joints that his creators endowed him with.
He is of course a robot — one of a number being developed in Japan to be used as “patients” for health care research and training.
The team that created the robot, led by Yoshio Matsumoto at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), has also created a prototype model of the skeletal structure of the lower half of the body.
This robot can be used to gauge how patients might feel when a specific health care product is used on them. The data gathered from tests can be used to develop more patient-friendly equipment, such as beds with reduced risk of bedsores.
The robot’s skeleton is made of metal, while its skin, fat and muscles are made of silicone with varying degrees of hardness. Sensors embedded in the robot measure pressure on various parts of the lower body.
Other researchers at Waseda University and Nagoya University have also developed robots festooned with sensors to measure the effects of medical procedures on human bodies.
A Waseda team led by mechanical engineering associate professor Hiroyuki Ishii worked with a Kyoto-based manufacturer of human body models for medical education, Kyoto Kagaku, to develop a robot baby for practicing the delicate procedures of ensuring breathing starts soon after birth.
If babies are not breathing when born, sensory stimulation such as stroking the legs is used to get them breathing. If this fails, a tube is inserted into the trachea.
Around 1-2% of newborns undergo this procedure, according to Ishii. He says advanced practice is “essential,” as the procedure is mainly needed in urgent situations.
The robot infant is equipped with sensors to detect pressure, equipment insertion, and the baby’s posture to determine whether it has been inserted appropriately. The team aims to complete the simulator for the training of interns by the end of 2018.
Source: Nikkei Asian Review