Though nearly every country in the world is ageing fast, Japan is at the front of the pack and in the next few decades will see its ratio of workers to retirees change from 7-1 to 2-1 – a scary prospect, particularly in a country that has always revered and respected the elderly. Robotic assistants offer a solution to this dilemma and Panasonic has just announced the development of two special-care robots; a robotic bed that also transforms into a wheelchair and a robotic hair washing assistant. Both are specifically designed to aid and give independence to the elderly and people with limited mobility.

Panasonic’s robotic bed includes improvements from its previously developed bed late last year and features in-built voice recognition technology and the ability to transform directly from a bed into a wheelchair without the user needing to move.

Panasonic simplified the design of the new robotic bed by modifying some of the components, whilst reducing the number of motors. These adjustments enable the bed to transform and separate more easily into a wheelchair. It also offers more control and safety via voice guidance and LED lights which indicate when the bed is ready to release the wheelchair.

The new hair-washing robot uses Panasonic’s robot hand technology and boasts human-like dexterity, but with a human-beating 16 fingers. The robots two hands shampoo and rinse hair after scanning and recording the user’s head shape. Each individual arm has three motors to control pressure, movement and massage motion and this personal hair-dresser will even remember each person’s head shape along with preferred massage technique and pressure.

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.