R2-D2 and C-3PO Recruited As Home Helps?
Japan has one of the largest percentages of pensioners of any other country in the world. At the moment it stands at 23.1% and looks likely to rise to 38% by 2050.
In the UK, according to official statistics, about 16% of the population is over working age but this is expected to grow to 24.6% by 2050. The age group that is growing fastest at 5.5% per year is the centenarians. And life expectancy continues to improve with those born now. Boys born today can expect to live eight years longer and girls, six years. Alarm bells may be ringing somewhere about the additional care provision that will be needed.
Yes, unfortunately it seems the longer we live, the more frail we become and the more likely we are to have problems with mobility. Although this is not a foregone conclusion, obviously it is likely that demands on assistance and the NHS are likely to increase with these demographic changes.
As Japan is facing up to this problem more quickly than the rest of the world and because of their reputation in innovation, you might not be surprised to know that they are developing a robot to help.
It seems that for many years we’ve dreamed of robots to minimise our workloads and now we have robot Hoovers, floor cleaners and lawn mowers. In the medical arena great progress has also been made with robotic prosthesis which are already in use. These work with biosensors that receive signals from the nervous or muscular systems of the user. The prosthetic device picks up the signals in order to give the limb directions. It won’t be long before there’s a robot stairlift!
If reports at the end of last year are anything to go by, we will soon have prosthetic robotic limbs that are controlled by our minds too. This breakthrough has been developed in America where 1,300 servicemen have lost limbs over the last ten years due to war service.
In Japan, the car company Toyota reported last September (in The Engineer) that they were developing a robot to help those with mobility problems. The Human Support Robot in development helps those with impaired mobility; it isn’t intended to replace the need for prosthetics.
Robot HSR is controlled by voice or from a digital tablet i.e. an iPad or similar. The pet robot can pick things up off the floor, open the curtains, reach things on high shelves and even suck-up thin items from the floor. You can watch one of these prototypes in action below.
We’re afraid there are no subtitles but you’ll understand what’s happening. And we have to stress that this little guy is still in development so don’t be too impatient with him!
Study of transport services
In the same month last year Loughborough University was calling for participants in a study regarding transport methods for those with disabilities in the area. Of course these participants weren’t restricted to the pensioner generation.
The aim of the study was to ask the volunteers to comment on how more effective and detailed information about travel routes could make their journeys easier. The study involved the volunteers assessing a new website developed with Ordnance Survey and designed to improve the information regarding travel options. The study is still in progress.