ODENSE, Denmark — One of the busier exhibition stands at RoboBusiness Europe 2016 was Melvin, a unique robot for helping people on the toilet. The assistive robot removes the user’s pants, helps the user sit and stand, and aids in putting the pants back on.
The device’s name is taken from the British slang word for a “reverse wedgie.” Melvin’s lighthearted name belies its potential for helping older or disabled people retain some privacy and independence.
Helene Høyer Jensen, sales chief at Aalborg, Denmark-based Melvin ApS, spoke about assisted living technologies at the conference here earlier this month.
The involvement of end users is absolutely necessary when developing new robotic technology, she said. This is particularly true with assistive devices. End users participated throughout the development process, and their contributions were essential because they saw things differently than engineers, Høyer Jensen said.
Melvin was developed in cooperation with the municipality of Aalborg and LT Automation ApS.
“We realized that there are no other products like Melvin,” she explained. “It is a new way of helping people taking off and putting on their pants. Melvin was developed at request of the citizens, and the robot had to be easy to use and should require no time for preparation.”
Eight prototypes have been sold to Aalborg in North Jutland, Denmark, and will begin use in August. Melvin ApS reported that its assistive robot received strong interest from other companies, municipalities, and hospitals at RoboBusiness Europe.
Denmark invests in efficient ‘super’ hospitals
In the next 10 to 15 years, Denmark is building six new “super” hospitals and is going to renovate 10 existing hospitals to become “super” hospitals at a total amount of around $6.2 billion.
Claus Duedal Pedersen, chief consultant at Odense University Hospital, was chairman for the “Health Care Robotics for Better Quality of Life” session track at RoboBusiness Europe.
Other healthcare robotics practitioners discussed market trends, use cases, and precision surgery. They also spoke about welfare technology and improving human-robot interaction.
The experts cited a variety of healthcare applications, ranging from simple transportation to highly advanced surgery, each with its own justification and potential for development.
Duedal Pedersen said that, like other countries, Denmark faces an aging population and a shortage of caretakers. The New University Hospital in Odense (OUH) is expected to reduce the number of beds by 20 percent and require 8 percent less budget compared with existing facilities.
In 2014, the existing Odense University Hospital had 1,038 beds, conducted 40,113 operations, and discharged 104,229 patients. It also handled 1.1 million outpatient visits that year.
The key is an increase in productivity, thanks in part to assistive robots.
New hospitals will be heavily automated
The New OUH will use pharmacy robots. Data collected from patients will be used to produce personalized medicine that will be packed and distributed to each patient.
There will be five clusters of pharmacies — and no storage rooms for medicine at each department, as there are at many hospitals today. How the medication will be transported to patients is yet to be decided.