"Are you satisfied with your care?"

Baymax, the robotic caregiver from Big Hero 6, asks that of its patient, the main character Hiro, each time before it can deactivate. Disney's Oscar-winning animated movie places that question in all sorts of dramatic and tear-inducing context, but it may be a phrase you could hear repeated by a real-life robot in the near future -- if you live in Japan.

Scientists at the Riken institute and Sumitomo Riko Company in Nagoya said they have developed a new experimental nursing care robot with a human-like "gentle touch." Though it may not talk or shoot rocket fists, it is shaped like a big cartoon bear. Appropriately named Robear, the new nursing bot can carry up to 80 kilograms (about 176 pounds), which makes it powerful enough to carry a patient from a bed into a wheelchair or other such place to sit. The action of picking up and carrying a patient, while seemingly simple, is a huge cause of lower back pain in assisted-care specialists. A robot like Robear can carry out this strenuous manuever with ease.

Robear is the latest in a series of nursing bots built by Riken. Its predecessor was the RIBA, or Robot for Interactive Body Assistance, a similar bear-shaped droid built in 2009. Then there was the RIBA-II, developed in 2011. Back in 2006, there was RI-MAN, an automaton that looks like it came out of a Studio Ghibli flick.

Riken explains what separates Robear from its older siblings in a publicized statement: "Specifically, it includes actuator units with a very low gear ratio, allowing the joints to move very quickly and precisely, and allowing backdrivability, meaning that the force encountered by the actuators as they perform their tasks can be quickly fed back into the system, allowing softer movement. It also incorporates three types of sensors, including torque sensors and Smart Rubber capacitance-type tactile sensors made entirely of rubber, which allow for gentle movements, ensuring that the robot can perform power-intensive tasks such as lifting patients without endangering them."

Basically, Robear is better, faster, stronger. It weighs a good deal lighter too; only 140 kilograms (or 309 pounds) compared to RIBA-II's 230 kilograms (507 pounds).

Toshiharu Mukai, leader of Riken's Robot Sensor Systems Research Team said, "We really hope that this robot will lead to advances in nursing care, relieving the burden on care-givers today. We intend to continue with research toward more practical robots capable of providing powerful yet gentle care to elderly people."

Unfortunately, there are no plans to release Robear to the public according to Dr. Mukai. Furthermore, he explains Robear's design was selected for its "power" and "friendliness."

Japan could find a lot of use for this ursine robo-companion. The country's population is aging and a declining birth rate means there may be fewer young people to take care of the elderly. That's where Robear and its robotic kin step, or roll, in. Though Robear may not be available for public use anytime soon, its technology could lead to future innovations in later machines.

You can watch Robear and its gentle bedside manner in this clip:

Photo Credit: Big Hero 6 | YouTube

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