Personal care robot
Personal care (helper) robots are a new technology expected to lift up the quality of our life in the foreseeable future. But unlike industrial robots, these new robots require special safety features because of the immediate contact with their human users. JARI is developing safety technologies and safety evaluation techniques for personal care robots in a project commissioned by NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization). JARI will also play a leading role in the helper robot development project to be launched by the Ministry of Economy and International Trade.
Safety assessment for helper robots pose two major challenges to be addressed. JARI is trying to obtain answers to these challenges as a member of the research consortium with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the Nagoya University.
To plan a new product, risks that may arise during the product’s service life must be identified and eliminated as much as possible in advance. Risks are generally identified from the past records of product defects, but there exit very few such records for helper robots, a newborn technology. Consequently attempts are made to utilize the technologies and information available from relevant industries especially the automotive and electric machinery industries. JARI and the other consortium members are developing a risk analysis technique for helper robots in close cooperation with robot makers.
The validity of risk analysis must be verified, and the effectiveness of risk reducing techniques has to be assessed. Since helper robots will be used in diverse day-to-day living situations, a test method reflecting the diversity should be developed. The NEDO-commissioned project is aimed to develop helper robot safety technologies and standards that will enable safety assessment by any third party. Specifically, JARI has studied the safety of robots which move about and may collide with persons inside home or hospital, and hopes to unify its study with the obstacle avoidance test, environmental/operational durability tests, EMC test of the other consortium members into a comprehensive safety test method for personal care robots.
For the creation of an international standard for personal care robots, an ISO Working Group (ISO/TC184/SC2/WG7) is drafting the safety standard ISO 13482, which is scheduled to take effect within 2013. As a member of this working group, JARI has tried to have the Japanese research results reflected and has proposed a detailed test method to be added into the ISO standard.
The large majority of the JARI robot team members have experiences in automotive safety research. They are anxious to develop truly safe, helpful helper robots by applying the findings and technologies they have harvested from the automotive field. JARI’s expertise will be particularly useful for helper robots of human riding type. Inversely, JARI hopes to utilize electronic control technologies for robots to enhance the safety of electronic control for automobiles.