May 13, 2010, 9:57 AM — Fujitsu has developed a robot teddy bear that's designed to motivate children and stimulate the elderly.
The bear is on show this week at the company's Fujitsu Forum event in Tokyo and proved a hit with show attendees, who gathered around to watch it laugh, wave, exercise and even sleep.
"Inside the robot about 300 behaviors are registered and the bear executes some of them depending on its emotional state and the user's interaction," said Ichiro Watanabe, a senior researcher at Fujitsu Laboratories, who developed the robot.
"If I touch him it reacts like this," he said before proceeding to vigorously rub the bear's stomach. The bear then erupted into giggles.
There are 13 sensors across the bear's body to sense human touch, including sensors on both hands, an internal tilt sensor, a microphone and a camera that's mounted in the bear's nose. Through these inputs it attempts to gather information about its surroundings and the emotional state of its user then, armed with that information, tries to react in an appropriate way.
If you smile, it smiles back.
Twelve robotic actuators through the bear's body help it achieve movements like nodding or shaking its head and opening or closing its eyes.
Fujitsu envisages it could be used in nursing homes to stimulate the minds of the elderly and keep them company; in nurseries to promote learning, and as a general companion at home.
The company's work on the robot goes beyond the gears, motors and sensors that make up its body. The company envisages the robot will maintain a data connection to its service provider business through which data and other services can be provided.
Real-world tests of the robot have already taken place and development work is continuing towards an eventual launch.
Japanese robot makers view nursing homes and elderly care facilities as a prime potential market for their products. Japan's society is aging fast and elderly care is expected to be a major business sector in the future.
Government figures released last month show just under 23 percent of the country's population is now aged 65 or older. In contrast those 14 years of age or younger make up just 13 percent of the overall population of 127 million.