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Korean nurse bot sniffs the air to detect soiled diapers


January 29, 2013

The KIRO-M5 can detect when a diaper has been soiled, alert the nursing staff, and then purify and sterilize the air

The KIRO-M5 can detect when a diaper has been soiled, alert the nursing staff, and then purify and sterilize the air

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may have recently approved iRobot's telepresence robot RP-VITA for use in hospitals, but as far as medical robots are concerned Japan and Korea remain ahead of the curve. The latest in a line of nurse droids is the KIRO-M5, a compact transportation robot that can carry supplies, sterilize and deodorize the air, and alert nurses when the elderly patients need their diapers changed.

The Korea Institute of Robot and Convergence, a division of the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), began work on the KIRO-M5 in early 2011 and is now conducting trials at nursing homes. Korean engineers have been developing robots for the "silver generation" over the past decade, including some that wouldn't look out of place on the set of the original Star Wars. The 1 meter (3.28-ft) tall, 80 kg (176-pound) KIRO-M5 looks utilitarian by comparison, but that seems appropriate given its prime directive.

The robot performs daily wake-up calls, informs residents when food is served, schedules their daily exercise, and has an alarm function should an emergency arise. Besides sniffing the air to detect soiled diapers, the KIRO-M5 also has a pair of handles so it can be used as a robotic walker. It's not clear how long its batteries last, but similar robots like Panasonic's Hospi can operate for 8 hours to a charge.

The idea is that the robot should always be nearby, though it keeps a safe distance when traveling with its bumper sensors, obstacle-detecting laser, and ultrasonic range finders. At night, its front facing camera allows nurses to keep an eye on things at their station without having to make the rounds themselves.

One official stated that nurses working at more than 500 geriatric facilities throughout the nation – and Korea's aging population – will benefit from the support of robots like the KIRO-M5.

Once the initial trials have been completed, suggestions from both the nurses and patients will influence new features. The plan is to commercialize the technology as the country strives to build state-of-the-art medical facilities. Robots like this one are not yet commonplace even in Japan, but the expected market for such devices fuels their development.

Source: Korea Institute of Robot and Convergence (Korean) via Herald (Korean)

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers. All articles by Jason Falconer

Not sure if patients will want to be cared for by a machine that looks like a self-propelled toilet.


Our overworked nurses would probably press the 'cancel' button and get to the poopy diaper when time permits - par for the course around here.


I could see it being used in a few daycares I've smelt...


I could imagine several of these "sniffers" assigned to follow politicians...and for the same reason!


The thing that worries me the most is how the cute little guy proposes to "deodorize" the air. Surely, it's not going to have the sort of filters required to actually remove undesired odors, that would make it too bulky. I haven't tried to translate the original article yet, but my guess would be it's going to "freshen" the air (another clever marketing euphemism) by squirting some sort of hideous petrochemical perfume into the air whenever it detects a naturally occurring odor like baby poop or a ruptured catheter bag. That's the last thing I want sprayed at me if I'm already unwell enough to be in hospital. I'd end up suing them for chemical assault and battery. Masking fragrances never get rid of the original offending odor, and many of them are also designed to deaden your sense of smell entirely. Horrible, poisonous untested and unregulated soups of chemicals. Some people can't get enough of the stuff, but I end up literally running the other way. Someone please stop the insanity!


@nutcase Due to the ageing population pretty much anywhere on Earth, there is a huge economical stress to take care of the elderly population. Sure, we all want nice smiling nurses to take care of our grand mas, but this is simply impossible. If we could care for the same number of patients with less personnel, wouldn't that mean less stress on the younger generation by the elderly?

John Kang

I'd love to see how this actually works. It looks fantastic and efficient. Maybe a few years from now, they'll consider using it for small kids/ babies as long as they're sure it is safe and won't do any harm.

James Fraser

Ha! That is so awkward and funny lol but I guess if the hospital got limited nurses or staff then this is a good alternative. :)

Martin Page

My wife wants one for when I have beans.

Bruce Williams
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