A team of engineers working for the JSDD, with help from the Orient Industry Company have created an experimental robotic bear to assist in euthanasia and assisted suicide in Japan.
The growing suicide rate, as well as the senior population is becoming an increasing concern. Hospital Staff, and Suicide Assistant Volunteers from the JSDD are required to help euthanize those who are unable to themselves due to physical, or psychological reasons.
To aid these carers and volunteers, the JSDD-Orient Industry Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robotics Research in the Bunkyo Ward of Tokyo has designed an assisted suicide support robot with the face of an innocent, loveable cartoon-like bear to aid patients in self-euthanasia named SeppuKuma.
SeppuKuma, which loosely translates to “Suicide Bear” has robotic arms that are able to carry up to 80kg of weight, hands that are powerful enough to crush human bone, and roller legs that can retract or extend from a base as necessary when bending to pick someone up out of bed or when maneuvering through tight spaces like doorways.
The robot weighs 140kg and it is powered by specially designed software and advanced actuators (a type of motor that controls mechanisms). SeppuKuma also offers 23 very different methods one can choose to end their life, including Everlasting Sleep (lethal injection), Pillow Kisses (suffocation), Peaceful Breath (helium asphyxia) and Sleepy time Hug which is where the robotic bear strangles its partner until their pulse stops for 15 minutes. All of these attributes enable the SeppuKuma to give it’s patient the power to choose how they get to end their own life. An official from the JSDD says that, so far, robots have never been used for this purpose in any hospital.
“We really hope that SeppuKuma will lead to advances in the Right to Die movement, it’s important to give those who want to end their lives the power to do so in a safe and responsible manner. We intend to continue with research toward more practical robots capable of providing powerful yet gentle euthanasia to elderly people and those battling with either shame or depression,” said Tsuneki Suko, leader of the Artificial Intelligence Systems Research Team at the JSDD-Orient Institute Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research.
The researchers have been working to develop a robot to assist with patient suicide since 2009. The first version was Robot for HAIRAKUMA which could lift a weight of up to 61kg. The second incarnation, HAIRAKUMA-II, weighs 230kg and can carry a weight of up to 80kg. The HAIRAKUMA-II was recalled immediately from test markets after a glitch in the AI Systems vital sign monitor left the bodies of 12 beta testing patient’s bodies horribly disfigured but still alive. SeppuKuma improves on its predecessors by being lighter and having the smallest base yet.
“The very sleek and friendly look is aimed at radiating an atmosphere of strength, forgiveness and cleanliness at the same time,” research leader Tsuneki Suko said.
“We voted for this design among options presented by our designer. We hope to commercialize our suicide robot in the not too distant future.”