OTSU -- A self-navigating artificial intelligence-equipped robot is doing its bit as part of the night shift crew at a nursing home in this west Japan city, helping to improve care while assisting in infection countermeasures.
A robot with faint blue lights quietly opens the door of a room at the Activa Biwa nursing home in the city of Otsu just past 9 p.m., when the lights are turned off for residents. After making sure that the resident in need of care is in bed, the robot silently closes the door.
The Aeolus robot became part of the Activa Biwa staff in November 2021. Using UV-C lights, it disinfects commonly touched places in the building including handrails and doorknobs. It can also detect abnormalities in residents as they sleep based on their posture or movements, and notify human coworkers by sharing images it has taken of the residents.
Its sensors allow the robot to self-navigate around the building, avoiding obstacles. It can operate an elevator on its own using arms with seven joints each. It was even able to prevent one resident from falling after detecting them trying to get into their wheelchair from their bed.
It makes the rounds on one floor of the facility's care ward, which has about 30 rooms, in about 45 minutes. The nursing home operator plans to add more Aeolus robots and increase the number of floors they look after.
Kayo Kojima, 60, the central Japan area manager for Activa Biwa's operating firm Trust Garden, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "The nursing care business will be even more short-staffed as Japan's population ages. To secure good service qualities, we've introduced a robot now, and we want to expand the things we can do."
Care unit leader Yuta Minamisawa, 26, who often works with the Aeolus robot on night shifts, said of his robotic coworker, "I was worried at first that it might create more work, but it's helped reduce work by making the rounds and disinfecting appliances. It's become my night shift work friend that I can rely on."
(Japanese original by Daiki Takikawa, Osaka Photo Department)