Equipped with giant padded arms, Robear is the latest in a line of prototype nurse robots designed to take on some of the backbreaking work of caregivers who must lift patients an average of 40 times per day in Japan, which has a rapidly greying population.

In contrast to the earlier prototypes Riba and Riba II, Robear is capable of gentler movements because it has capacitance-type tactile sensors that feed data to its actuators, which in turn can quickly sense any resistance to exerted force from patients' bodies.

The tactile sensors are based on auto parts maker Sumitomo Riko's Smart Rubber, a flexible rubber sensor that can measure pressure and deformation. The robot also has six-axis torque sensors, cameras, a microphone and 27 degrees of freedom, or axes of motion.

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