Inventions & TechNews

Japanese University Working On Spherical Robot that Sweats

By now, it’s clear that there are robots for nearly every conceivable situation. So maybe you won’t be surprised when you see the University of Tsukuba’s Sweating Robot, designed to help the elderly better perceive surrounding temperatures.

“The elderly are more affected by higher environmental temperatures. If they misperceive the temperature, it can lead to a number of potentially dangerous health issues. To address this, we propose a robot that sweats to indicate the high environmental temperature to the elderly.”

The robot concept and its accompanying paper are the work of the university’s Department of Intelligent Interaction Technologies, co-authored by Yijie Guo and Fumihide Tanaka.

According to their study, the elderly sometimes have “misperceptions of heat” caused by “skin sensory perception and thermal homeostasis decreasing over time.” To remedy this, their robot uses simulated sweat to “indicate the high environmental temperature to the elderly,” in hopes that they’ll be motivated to change the thermostat or otherwise take action to cool down.

The process is outlined in this included graphic:

Image: University of Tsukuba

Whether or not anyone would be more likely to follow the advice of a sweating robot, the paper points to the “social presence” of physical robots that may lead to better user acceptance and trust. A physical presence, they say, may even help build empathy toward such systems.

The authors mention the potential for distrust among the elderly when it comes to already existing technologies and systems, such as the United States’ National Weather Service.

They’re exploring three different possible robot designs — one that simply produces liquid, one that produces both liquid and a sweat-flavored perfume, and finally one that actually includes a “sweating skin layer” complete with pores. Other designs involve systems that work via touch, for those who may have vision problems.

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Rob Schwarz

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. For nearly 10 years, he's managed Stranger Dimensions, providing a unique perspective on all matters involving time travel, parallel universes, and whether or not robots might one day take over the world.

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