2015 No.16


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Japan, a Place for Relaxation and Soothing Comfort


Mechanical Engineering Adds Zest to Life

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Innovative technologies and design concepts are enabling the creation of new devices and mobility aids that bring greater convenience to everyday life and make it more fulfilling. Meanwhile, in medical institutions, the home and elsewhere, communication robots offer companionship, “conversation,” and a helping hand. Technical advances are adding warmth to the relationship between people and machines, and opening up new frontiers for the future.

Photos: Aflo, Huis Ten Bosch Co., Ltd., Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd., National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Natori Kazuhisa, Panasonic Corporation, Robo Garage Co., Ltd., SoftBank Corp., Waseda University, WHILL, Inc., YUKAI Engineering Inc.,

Design and functionality bring smiles to users of personal mobility devices

Going out in a wheelchair is a daunting experience with limited places you can go, but WHILL can solve that. The futuristic design accented in black and white has users of this electric wheelchair effusive: “Now I’ve got more opportunities to go out!” and “When I’m in a WHILL, I’m riding in style.”

WHILL’s performance is another big attraction. Tilt the control levers to roll in the direction you want. Maneuverability and design translate into stress-free comfort on the go. There are 24 small tires on each front wheel to permit omnidirectional turning with rotation centered over the rear axle, and a powerful four-wheel drive mechanism. All this means mobility in every direction, and expanded potential to handle abrupt changes in level or rough terrain like a gravel road.

With this new way to get mobile, “Where am I able to go?” becomes “Let’s just go!” WHILL, delivering personal mobility and a happy ride. (From WHILL, Inc.)

Performance and style make the WHILL electric wheelchair fun to ride outdoors, and comfortable, too.

With 24 small tires on each front wheel, a stable 360-degree wheelchair pivot is now possible.

Tilt the controller by hand to roll effortlessly in the direction you want.

Use the remote control app on your Bluetooth-equipped smartphone to move the wheelchair when not riding in it.

The world’s first hotel staffed by robots to welcome you

In a world first, robots now welcome guests to a hotel in Japan. At Henn na Hotel (“Hotel Bizarre”), arriving guests are greeted not by humans but by robots. One of them is a humanoid at the front desk—it looks like a woman wearing the hotel uniform, and it blinks and makes eye contact while making room arrangements. Another serves as a porter, carrying luggage, and yet another works in the cloakroom. The hotel is eco-friendly too, using advanced technologies to reduce power consumption and waste. Management looks forward to further advances in technology to bring robotic automation to more than 90% of the hotel’s services. Perhaps hotels staffed by robots will one day offer new levels of convenience and enjoyment, revolutionizing accommodations worldwide! This hotel is in the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture.

A humanoid named Actroid and a dinosaur bot are among the robotic staff at the hotel’s front desk. They can do their job thanks to a combination of voice recognition and conversation engine technologies.

Even the hotel cloakroom is staffed by a robot that will look after your belongings for you.