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The 37th H.C.R.

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Next : CEATEC JAPAN 2010

Hear better, see better - communication equipment continues to evolve

In the communication support corner, you will find products such as hearing aids, telephones, personal fax machines, and doorphones with monitors. This area is crowded every year with visitors who study these products in detail.

H.C.R. 2010With the digital hearing aid, "ONWA," Panasonic has placed emphasis on sounds that originate in front, and turns down noise from behind or voices in the background. The "ONWA" supports smooth communication by accentuating voices or sounds that are right in front of you. Panasonic has continued its research and development on hearing aids that are suitable especially for the Japanese language, and its hearing aid successfully blocks out noise letting you hear words clearer.
H.C.R. 2010The telephone and personal fax machines have evolved and have become even easier to use. The antenna of the digital cordless phone in the photograph flashes blue when someone calls and displays the name of the person registered on the phone's directory on the LCD screen in big legible size. Of course it has an audio guidance, so it will read the name of the person who called if they are registered in the directory of the phone or the number of the person calling.
H.C.R. 2010The "Dokodemo Doorphone" SW500KL has a cordless handset with a monitor. Older people may have difficulty going over to the main unit to check to see who is at the door on the LCD monitor when the doorbell rings. Well, if you have a handset with a monitor nearby, you can see who is at the door and answer it even if you are on the second floor. By the way, this handset can also be used as a handset of the phone, so it will be useful for external communication as well.

I have introduced a wide range of welfare equipment this year as well, but the 37th Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition has ended. Thank you for reading my entries, and I would like to also thank the Panasonic staff at the booth who spared time out of their busy day to help me write my entries.


Once again, Panasonic introduces a full line-up of welfare equipment!

As was the case last year, Panasonic has a wide range of welfare equipment useful for giving care such as excretion care equipment, bathing equipment, and mobility assistance equipment such as wheelchairs and walking assistance equipment.

H.C.R. 2010Let's take a look at the deodorizing waterproof mat placed under the "Shower Pot LS" in the excretion equipment corner. Deodorizing waterproof mats from other manufacturers loose their ability to deodorize after about 50 washes, but because Panasonic's deodorizing waterproof mats have ceramics and metal ions woven into the cloth, it continues to deodorize even after 100 washes.
H.C.R. 2010This is a new wheelchair from the going out series just introduced in August, the "Rutta." For the first time, the cushion made of "Raku Mat Air" comes as standard, and it also has cushioned casters and air tires that absorb vibration, so it offers excellent seating and riding comfort. The "Rutta" has also been designed to offer greater comfort for people who push the wheelchair with a frame structure that also absorbs vibrations and has a better grippable form.
H.C.R. 2010I compared an ordinary wheelchair with the "Rutta" by riding it over the uneven surface in the mobility assistance equipment corner. With ordinary wheelchairs, I felt myself shaking from left to right and it felt unstable. On the other hand, there was less shaking with the "Rutta," I found it easier to move straight forward, and I couldn't even feel myself being pushed upwards when I went over the uneven surface.

Even more comfortable and safer - electric care bed RS and "Raku Mat Air" (comfortable mattress)

In the corner with bedding equipment, you will see some familiar faces like the electric care bed and "Raku Mat Air" (comfortable mattress). You will see how comfortable "Raku Mat Air" with a 3D spring structure that well distributes body weight is if you try it out. The moderate firmness it offers makes it easier to roll over and change positions, so it helps prevent bedsores. It may also be easier for caretakers to shift care recipients' body positions.

H.C.R. 2010This is the corner where you will find various bedding equipment. On the bench in front, there is a comparison between the "Raku Mat Air" and a conventional urethane mattress. There are many visitors who take a seat on these mattresses, one after another, to compare, and they have given feedback such as "it's comfortable to sit on" and "it's stable and not too hard."
H.C.R. 2010The Panasonic electric care bed RS is a Japan Industrial Standards Committee certified welfare equipment. Very close attention has been paid to ensuring safety - the gaps in between the bed and various accessories such as side rails have been reduced to help prevent parts of the body (especially the head and neck) from getting stuck.

Very stylish! A prototype of a neo-futuristic walking assistance equipment

Something very new and neo-futuristic caught my eye in the mobility assistance equipment corner. This white carry-bag is actually a prototype of a walking assistance equipment great for going out. It is a newly developed welfare equipment, which can be used as a carry-bag when you go on a trip, but is also equipped with a seat on which you can sit when you get tired. In the past, walking assistance equipment had a hard time going over bumps, but there are plans to integrate a function that will enable it to get over bumps of approximately 3cm, and this high performance and new idea have been adopted as a development theme of the independent administrative institution New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

H.C.R. 2010Perhaps many people won't be able to recognize that it is a walking assistance equipment at a glance. In the picture you can see that the handles and the seat have been put away. Such a compact structure can be put away neatly near the entrance of your home.
H.C.R. 2010When you pull out the handles and the seat, it changes into a walking assistance equipment. The handles have been co-developed with the manufacturer in charge of the ability of the armrests for the portable toilet (Zaraku) to rise and descend smoothly. The handle can be raised and lowered smoothly without any obstructions, and can also be adjusted to any desired height; this is a function unique to this company.
H.C.R. 2010As you can see, there is plenty of space inside for your things, and you don't need to worry about things getting wet in case of rain.

Digital Mirror may be useful for rehabilitation and care prevention

There is a mysterious corner next to the stage communicating Panasonic's manufacturing activities with a wall covered in mirrors. This is a prototype of the Digital Mirror, which is effective for preventing care or for rehabilitation training.

Let me tell you a little about how the Digital Mirror can be used. When you stand in the designated spot and raise your arm and point your fingers towards the mirror, the mirror's distance image sensors detect the movement of your fingers. The red circles that appear on the mirror follow the movement of your fingers, allowing you to operate the mirror in the same way as you would operate a PC with the mouse. When you actually try it out for yourself, it feels as though you are controlling a giant touch panel. It is a completely new experience. You can select a training menu with your fingertips, and if you train following the images that appear on the mirror, you can have an effective training session even without an instructor nearby.

H.C.R. 2010In the photograph, the woman is training to improve her balance. If the weight is equally distributed on your left and right legs, the bar graph in the mirror will be displayed in green. If there is a difference of more than 5% in the weight distributed to each leg, the graph will be displayed in red.
H.C.R. 2010This is a demonstration of a sports rehabilitation exercise, squats, which may be performed after surgery to regain functions. The image deep within the mirror will show you how it's done. You can see your image right next to it, so you can compare and adjust your posture to get the maximum rehabilitation effect.
H.C.R. 2010Among the exercises offered, there are some that are game-like and fun. In the photograph you can see the "range of motion training," which aims to help increase the range of motion of your upper arms. If you move your arms in big motions, the balloons on the digital mirror will pop one after another. Once you begin, you feel like you want to pop all the balloons, and because there are balloons covering a wide area, your range of motion may increase unknowingly.

Digital Mirror not only comes with a training menu. It is also equipped with language training and mirror therapy. Mirror therapy was developed for people with hemiplegia or hemiparesis. The mirror takes the image of the non-affected half of the body, flips it, and displays it on the affected part of the body. This creates an image of a fully functioning body, and according to research, watching such images helps activate the respective area of the brain. In the past, there have been welfare equipment that could recreate an image of a part of your body, but the Digital Mirror is the first to be able to recreate an image of the entire body. Although it is still a prototype undergoing development, it taught me that this is one way of coping with the shortage of rehabilitation personnel.


Robotic hand technology that helped realize the hair-washing robot

As soon as the exhibition began, many interview requests from TV stations, etc. poured into the hair-washing robot section of the booth, so the robot is drawing much attention. Although the technical expert who is part of the development team was very busy, he made some time to answer my questions.

Q. The robot performs a whole series of movement from dampening hair, shampooing, massaging to rinsing, but how many minutes does this all take?

A. The hair-washing robot used in the demonstration will take about 3 to 8 minutes, but you can be set to any desired length of time. Anyone who would be using the robot regularly can program in scanned data for the shape of their head or their desired menu.

H.C.R. 2010A demo screen for the personal data stored on the hair-washing robot.

Q. The movement of the left and right arms seems rhythmical. They moved backwards and forwards in synch or alternately.

A. When developing the robot we imagined windshield wipers of a car that could move in 3 dimensions to wash hair from various different angles. The 2 arms move in accordance to the shape of the scanned head, but what made this possible was Panasonic's 3D shape tracking mechanism.

Q. There are a total of 16 digits. What are they made of?

A. Silicon rubber, so we can make it into any shape we want. The digits are a little bit harder than a person's fingers, and they have been designed in a way to massage, scratch, and apply pressure. In the future, we would like to be able to offer a wide selection of shapes to our customers.

Q. Is there any concern that too much pressure might be applied?

A. Because it is equipped with a power control technology that realizes an optimal massage, you don't have to worry about this at all. The development team deliberated at length on the number of motors on the arms or the pillow that supports the head from underneath.

Q. The digits have plastic covers on them?

A. To ensure cleanliness, we made it so that you can change the plastic covers each time.

Q. I was amazed at the amount of shampoo bubbles.

A. What we imagined was beautiful, bubbly foam you see on shampoo commercials. Actually, it was quite difficult to make such a creamy foam.


"I want to get my hair washed every day!" - Hair-washing robot helps make this wish come true

What is drawing attention at the Panasonic booth as an unconventional welfare equipment is the hair-washing robot. As you know, washing hair requires wide range of motions, so washing the hair of people who require care takes time and energy. A person in the Panasonic technological team got the idea when he heard a nurse talk about how difficult it is to make time to wash the hair of patients who can only bath 1 or 2 times a week with everything else that had to be done.

Washing hair can be a delicate process, so how precise can a robot wash someone's hair? There is a demonstration on the stage communicating information Panasonic's manufacturing activities, so let me tell you about the demonstration.

H.C.R. 2010The person getting their hair washed would be seated in a shampoo chair like the one you would find in a hair salon and their head would be placed in the sink. Head size differs from adults to children, so the 3D shape tracking mechanism accurately recognizes the shape of a person's head.
H.C.R. 2010Warm water squirts out from the shower pipes, and when the hair is wet, shampoo bubbles come out from the same nozzle. There are nozzles in the back as well, so your hair is evenly covered in bubbles. As you can see from the photograph, there are plenty of bubbles.
H.C.R. 2010The arms on the left and right have a total of 16 finger-like digits. These digits swing, press and massage the scalp while moving forwards and back. There is a pillow on the bottom supporting the backside of the head with similar digits, so the back of the head gets washed and massaged as well. After the massage, warm water will rinse away the bubbles again.

As you can see from the pictures, the demonstration of the hair-washing robot uses a dummy, so I couldn't try it out myself. So I asked a member of the development team who has had her hair washed by the robot 4 consecutive times about how it was. She said, "The digits felt like a person's fingers, and it was comfortable. The robot's movement wasn't too strong, and it didn't hurt at all. We're still working on it, but if you experience it once, you will see that getting your hair washed by a robot is not bad at all." Robotic technology may become widespread throughout society more rapidly than I thought, and we might be getting our hair washed by robots sooner than we think.


Amassed robotic technology brings new welfare equipment to life

The Panasonic technological team developed the electric care assistance bed (with an integrated wheelchair) to the current level of completion in a mere 6 months. When I spoke to the person in charge of development, I learned that what brought the new welfare equipment to fruition was the amassed robotic technology and its application.

Q. What did you try to keep in mind while developing the electric care assistance bed?

A. To reduce the strain during caretaking and care giving effectively, while also keeping the structure simple. Care beds and wheelchairs have been available from long ago, but we wanted to merge the 2 welfare equipment together. The robotic technology Panasonic has cultivated over the years has been applied to the mechanical parts and reduction of the number of motors. One of the innovative improvements Panasonic has made is the switch over from the bed caster to the main wheels of the wheelchair, which happens when the seatback is being lifted up.

H.C.R. 2010

When the unit is a bed, the main wheels are lifted up off the floor.

H.C.R. 2010

When half of the bed becomes a wheelchair, the casters of the bed are risen and the main wheels touch the floor.

Q. Why can such a big bed be transformed into a wheelchair so easily?

A. When you lift the seatback, the power assist technology supported by air pressure kicks in. And there is a gas dumper under the seat of the wheelchair, which makes lifting up the seatback even easier.

Q. In terms of safety, what did you try to keep in mind?

A. We added a sensor, which will help prevent people from getting their hands stuck in between the 2 halves of the bed with audio guidance when 2 halves combine. Moreover, in order to prevent people from being scared of the tips of the metal parts under the bed, the metal parts are automatically covered when the wheelchair separates from the bed.

H.C.R. 2010 H.C.R. 2010

Q. Can people who have a hard time sitting up be able to use it, too?

A. We are currently looking into that by conducting case studies. We developed a unique headrest that will help keep people's heads in a stable position, and we are currently working on a belt to prevent people from falling off the wheelchair. This electric care assistance bed with an integrated wheelchair is still under development, so we hope that many people will come test it out and give us their honest feedback. People's feedback is invaluable and will be a big help in developing even better products.


My experience on the electronic care assistance bed (with an integrated wheelchair)!

I went to the corner where you can experience the electronic care assistance bed (with an integrated wheelchair) and tried it out for myself. Here are some photographs and a few insights from my experience.

H.C.R. 2010First, I lied down on the bed as if I was the care recipient. It felt just as comfortable as other care beds. At a glance, I was concerned about the seam in the middle, where the wheelchair separates from the bed, but when I lied down, it didn't feel odd at all. Even when the bed was separating it didn't feel bumpy, and I wasn't worried about falling off either. Perhaps this may differ depending on the environment in which the electronic care assistance bed is placed, but it felt like it was gliding on water when the bed and the wheelchair portion was separating.
H.C.R. 2010Even the process in which the backrest rises and half of the bed transforms into a wheelchair is very smooth. You don't need to lift your lower body off the bed and onto the wheelchair, have your legs moved onto the footrest, etc. You don't even need to put your feet down on the floor, so it may be really great for people who find it hard to stand up because they have aching knees or swollen legs.
H.C.R. 2010Next, I tried using the bed as a caregiver. I have a bad back, and I don't have much upper body strength, but I tried to pull the bed out. Even though there was a person lying down on the bed, it was very light, and glided easily towards me.
H.C.R. 2010Underneath the bed, there is a handle, so when you want to put the seatback up, you just grab the handle with one arm, and use your other hand to push the seatback up. This was surprisingly light and easy. I don't have much power, but the reason why even I could pull the seatback up was because of the power assist technology. When you pull the seatback up, the knee part of the bed bends, and the footrest flattens out. So even as a caregiver, the bed very easily transforms into a wheelchair before you know it.
H.C.R. 2010When you want to transform the wheelchair back into the bed, you just have to go through the opposite motions. As though you were parking the car, you gently push the wheelchair portion of the bed into the bed frame, and then just push the "combine" button, and the height of the bed and wheelchair aligns. The LED display on the headboard then changes from "May be combined" to "May be used as a bed" and there is also an audio guidance that announces the same information.

Although you might imagine a grandiose piece of machinery when you hear that the bed transforms into a wheelchair, after having tested it myself, it seemed quite simple. I couldn't help but wonder, "Why wasn't something like this invented before?" Because care recipients do not need to be transferred from the bed to the wheelchair and back, this bed may come in handy for old people who are taking care of other old people. Even care recipients who would require high level of care will be able to spend time with the family eating or watching TV in this reclining wheelchair.


Prototype of an electric care assistance bed (with an integrated wheelchair)

When I saw the Roboticbed at last year's H.C.R., I felt that robotic technology had the potential to really push welfare equipment to a new level. A year has gone by since then, and now a prototype of an electric care assistance bed (with an integrated wheelchair), which is an idea for the practical application of the Roboticbed, has been unveiled. As you may remember, the Roboticbed was a care robot that helps people gain a degree of independence, but the electric care assistance bed (with an integrated wheelchair) is great for giving care. It has integrated the functions of a wheelchair while keeping the functions of an electric care assistance bed in tact. With simple operations, half of the electric care assistance bed transforms into a wheelchair, and people can be transported without having to transfer onto a wheelchair. This is demonstrated every day on the stage, which introduces information about Panasonic's manufacturing, so I will tell you more about it in detail with photographs in another entry.

H.C.R. 2010Half of the bed transforms into a wheelchair. When the caretaker pulls the handle, the wheelchair portion of the bed starts to separate from the rest of the bed. It's quite light, so even a woman can easily operate it.
H.C.R. 2010The back and leg rest retains the functions you would generally find on an electric care assistance bed. When you set the armrest, the transformation is complete. The person who was just lying down is now seated. You can then hold the handles and push as you would with other wheelchairs.

Transferring from the bed to the wheelchair and back can be stressful for both the caretaker and care recipient. Depending on the physical conditions of the care recipient, even veteran caretakers may have difficulty with the transfer. The electric care assistance bed (with an integrated wheelchair) is an innovative welfare equipment that will, when made available in the marketplace, completely alleviate such concerns.

Next to the stage that communicates information about manufacturing, there is a corner where you can test out the bed for yourself. I went and gave it a go, so I will write about my experience in the next entry.


The 37th H.C.R. has begun!

The 37th Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition has begun. This week in Tokyo, we have been experiencing cold rainy weather that we usually get in the late Fall, but the first day of H.C.R. is bright and sunny. Perhaps it is because of the nice weather, but many visitors poured into the venue as soon as the exhibition began at 10 a.m. The preparations in the Panasonic booth, from which I will be reporting, seem to have finished last night, so everything is in place. For 3 days starting from today, I will be reporting about the latest welfare equipment and technologies I will discover in this booth.

H.C.R. 2010Panasonic is located in the East Hall 3. If you look to your left immediately after you enter the hall, you will see the blue sign of the Panasonic brand, so the booth is easy to find.

When you see the Panasonic booth at this year's H.C.R., you will notice that the atmosphere is quite different. Last year's booth left quite a stylish impression, but this year, the floor and walls are all in earth tones, and so it looks natural and relaxing. The wood materials used for the booth design not only create a relaxing ambience, it is also ecological.

H.C.R. 2010LED lamps, which have become a familiar face of the Panasonic booth, are being used to light the booth. Recycled Kenaf, a plant known for its rapid growth rate and high ability to absorb CO2, is used as part of the materials of the patchwork like wall.

Panasonic has been eco-conscious when it comes to creating the booth from long ago. And this year, the theme of its booth is "people-friendly manufacturing with eco." So you can see how very enthusiastic Panasonic is to communicate that it is a "Green Innovation Company" that places the environment at the heart of all its business activities.


This year's Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition will begin on September 29th!

Hello! This is mako, a writer for this blog. Here in Japan, the hot summer heat has finally abated, and the mornings and evenings have become quite pleasant. Autumn has finally begun, and this means that it is also the season for the Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition (H.C.R.).

The H.C.R., which is the largest home care and rehabilitation exhibition in Japan, marks its 37th anniversary this year. It will be held in the East Hall of Tokyo Big Sight for 3 days, from September 29th to October 1st. Last year only 5 sections of the hall were used, but this year, 6 whole sections will be filled with exhibits of 492 companies and organizations from 16 countries and regions.

Last year, the Robotic Bed made quite a sensation at the Panasonic booth. According to the press release from today, this year, an electronic care bed (with an integrated wheelchair) and hair-washing robot, which uses robotic technology, will be on display. The electronic care bed (with an integrated wheelchair) is even more practical than last year's Robotic Bed, and I have never heard of a hair-washing robot.

I have a feeling that once again I will be able to discover amazing welfare equipment at the H.C.R. I will try to tell you about the latest information during the 3 days of the H.C.R., so please wait a little while longer until the exhibition begins on September 29th.

The 37th International Home Care & Rehabilitation Exhibition (H.C.R. 2010)
Period: September 29 (Wed) - October 1 (Fri), 2010
Venue: Tokyo Big Sight (Tokyo, Japan)
Organizers: Health and Welfare Information Association, Japan National Council of Social Welfare
Official site: