Panasonic's hair-washing robot

Uploaded by networkworld on 02.10.2010

It wets .... it washes .... it massages .... and it rinses.
Panasonic has developed a hair-washing robot that uses 16 electronically controlled fingers
to give even the dirtiest hair a makeover.
The robot is a little smaller than a washing machine and can run automatically from start
to finish in about 3 minutes.
It was developed to assist caregivers in hospitals and health-care facilities and the idea for
it came from personal experience explained Yukio Honda, director of Panasonic's robot
development center.
Yukio Honda, Director, Panasonic Robot Development Center
"I been thinking for a long time about developing a robot that used a pair of hands. While I
was thinking about that, I had to enter hospital. I was in hospital for two weeks, but my hair
was washed just two times. Women said they wanted their hair washed everyday, but the
nurses are very busy and can't manage it. I thought that if we had a robot it would
be possible."
One of the biggest challenges in designing the robot was getting it to apply just the
right amount of pressure as it washes and massages.
To get that right, sensors are installed that scan the head of users to get an idea of the
shape. Once done, this information can be remembered for next time.
Honda hopes the robot can one day contribute to helping the elderly and people with limited
mobility contribute more to society.
Yukio Honda, Director, Panasonic Robot Development Center
"If you don't wash your hair you can't feel stylish, and then it's more difficult to be
part of society. You can set this robot to automatically wash your hair. If you know
your hair is clean it's easier to talk to people. So helping people stay clean can contribute
to them leading an independant life. We think our robot could be a benefit to those people."
While not well known for its robotic technology, Panasonic is hoping to build its research
into a US$1.2 billion business by 2015.
Its Osaka-based robots lab has already developed several prototypes, including a porter robot
that can be used to assist in pulling heavy objects. There's also a robot that that can
assist with serving food and washing dishes.
Panasonic hasn't provided a launch date for any of the robots.
It hopes that hospitals will be among the first customers of the hair washing bot.
In Tokyo this is Martyn Williams, IDG News Service.