Robotic engineers at Panasonic are looking to tackle the problem of an ageing population. Their latest machine is designed to help keep the elderly on their feet and mobile with assistance from a robot helper. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: Panasonic's latest creation is called the "assist robot". It's designed to aid the elderly by keeping them on their feet. With built-in sensors, the assist robot can tell when someone, who's wearing a special vest, is trying to stand. It will then intervene and provide support. Panasonic's Noriyuki ShIkata says the robot will be a boon for the elderly. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) PANASONIC AGE FREE BUSINESS UNIT COUNCILLOR, NORIYUKI SHIKATA, SAYING: "One someone starts wearing diapers then they slowly become confined to bed. This is designed to get rid of that. This robot will allow people to actually get up and use the toilet." The United Nations says the number of elderly people all over the world will more than double over the next 40 years... while the number of younger people available to care for them will decline. In Japan those statistics are driving all kinds of new technologies and Panasonic says it's preparing for the future. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) PANASONIC AGE FREE BUSINESS UNIT COUNCILLOR, NORIYUKI SHIKATA, SAYING: "By 2025 it's said that the elderly population will be 30% and in contrast to that there will be a lack of around 100,000 people to actually care for them. We hope to develop robots that can fill that role." ShIkata says the 'assist robot' is an important step in that direction.