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In aging societies, there is a strong demand for robotics to tackle problems caused by the aging population. Patient transfer, such as lifting and moving a bedridden patient from a bed to a wheelchair and back, is one of the most physically challenging tasks in nursing care, the burden of which should be reduced by the introduction of robot technologies. We have developed a new prototype robot named RIBA with human-type arms that is designed to perform heavy physical tasks requiring human contact, and we succeeded in transferring a human from a bed to a wheelchair and back. To use RIBA in changeable and realistic environments, cooperation between the caregiver and the robot is required. The caregiver takes responsibility for monitoring the environment and determining suitable actions, while the robot undertakes hard physical tasks. The instructions can be intuitively given by the caregiver to RIBA through tactile sensors using a newly proposed method named tactile guidance. In the present paper, we describe RIBA's design concept, its basic specifications, and the tactile guidance method. Experiments including the transfer of humans are also reported.
Date of Conference: 18-22 Oct. 2010