If Panasonic can build an exercise horse then surely a robot that washes your hair should come as no surprise. Imagine being lifted from your robotic bed by a plush care-assist robot and placed into a chair for an automatic shampoo and scalp massage. That is the future of care for the elderly and sick in Japan, or the rich and lazy everywhere else. Panasonic's hair-washing robot scans each human head three-dimensionally to apply just the right amount of pressure during the shampoo, massage, and rinse phases. It recognizes repeat customers and then applies that person's preferred massage course using its human-like sixteen "fingers." Each arm contains a trio of motors to power swing, press, and massage motions... or to snap your spinal column should you decide to sass.
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Panasonic to Showcase Electric Care Assistance Bed with Integrated Wheelchair and Hair-Washing Robot at International Home Care & Rehabilitation Exhibition 2010

Tokyo, Sept 24, 2010 - Panasonic Corporation today announced the development of an electric care assistance bed with an integrated wheelchair and a hair-washing robot that drew on the company's robotics technology. They are designed to help support safe and comfortable living of the elderly and people with limited mobility while reducing the burden of caregivers. Panasonic will showcase prototypes of these robots at the 37th International Home Care & Rehabilitation Exhibition (H.C.R.) 2010 to be held at the Tokyo Big Sight from September 29 to October 1, 2010.

Panasonic has been committed to the research and development of robots that assist people, both of those who give and receive health care and welfare services, in order to make everyday living safe, secure and comfortable. As part of such efforts, the company developed a bed shaped robot that transforms into a wheelchair. Panasonic unveiled the Roboticbed at the H.C.R. exhibition last year. The Roboticbed, which works as an electric adjustable bed as well as an electric wheelchair, was intended to give users mobility and an extra level of independence while easing the burden of caregivers.

The Roboticbed received a great response from care recipients and givers alike, and Panasonic has been developing safety technologies and guidelines to put robots into practical use in an everyday living environment under a project coordinated by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), an independent administrative institute in Japan. At the same time, the company has also worked to make the Roboticbed more practical to allow the user to dock the wheelchair into the bed more easily.

Using its expertise in robotics technology, Panasonic simplified the structure of the new electric care assistance bed by reducing the number of motors and modifying the components. As a result, the user can separate and reunite the bed and the wheelchair more smoothly, which further reduces the risk and burden associated with the transfer between the bed and the wheelchair for the user and the caregiver. Adoption of pneumatic support and supplemental wheels also helps the care worker. Voice guidance and LED lights tell the user when the bed is ready to release the wheelchair.

The hair-washing robot was developed to fill the needs of workers at hospitals and health care facilities. Studies among them revealed their dilemma that they cannot attend to each and every request of the patients, such as shampooing, as it will add another task to the workers who are already burdened with many tasks.

The hair-washing robot uses Panasonic's robot hand technology. With 16 fingers, the robot washes hair and rinses the shampoo bubbles with the dexterity of human fingers. The robot's two arms scan the head three dimensionally as they move and measure and remember the head shape to apply just the right amount of pressure to each person when shampooing and massaging. Each arm has three motors that independently control swing, press and massage motions in conjunction with power detection sensors. The robot even remembers each person's head shape and preferred massage course.

Panasonic continues to strive to make use its expertise in robotics to help support people, both of those who provide and receive health care services, by listening to and understanding their needs.

About Panasonic

Panasonic Corporation is a worldwide leader in the development and manufacture of electronic products for a wide range of consumer, business, and industrial needs. Based in Osaka, Japan, the company recorded consolidated net sales of 7.42 trillion yen (US$79.4 billion) for the year ended March 31, 2010. The company's shares are listed on the Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and New York (NYSE: PC) stock exchanges. For more information on the company and the Panasonic brand, visit the company's website at http://panasonic.net .

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Panasonic's hair-washing robot: rinse, kill, repeat