Robots play a critical -- and growing -- role in modern medicine, from training the next generation of doctors, dentists, and nurses, to comforting and protecting elderly patients in the early stages of dementia. Using robots, medical professionals can make smaller incisions for shorter surgeries, reducing hospital stays and improving patients' prognoses and saving costs. As robots become even smaller and developers continue to further integrate the devices with artificial intelligence, the medi
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With the face of a friendly teddy bear and the arm-power of a forklift, RIBA -- Robot for Interactive Body Assistance -- is designed to lift people who are too weak or ill to sit, walk, or stand by themselves. The robot, which is expected to begin testing in 2011, can lift people of up to 135 pounds, although inventor Toshiharu Mukai and the development team intend to increase the weight limit when the device is tested at Japanese nursing homes. There are 454 sensors built into RIBA's arms, along with a motor for lifting people, and a soft urethane foam skin for comfort. The robot responds to commands, and is trained to recognize both faces and voices, according to its developers. Prospective markets could include nursing homes, long- and short-term care facilities, and hospitals, especially when the robot is able to lift heavier weights.