A research group led by Associate Professor Fumihide Tanaka at the University of Tsukuba has quantitatively confirmed for the first time the effects of wearable robots that are under development to alleviate pain and fear.

 In nursing and nursing care, people's arms and backs are stroked and rubbed to relieve pain and anxiety.Effects of contact between people (social touch) have been reported in various academic fields, and in recent years, social touch by robots has also begun to be studied.The research team has been developing a wearable robot that can be easily put on and grasped by the user to alleviate pain and fear.

 The robot, codenamed "Reliebo," used by the researchers in their experiments is covered in a soft material and contains three airbags that can be independently inflated and deflated.In addition to gripping, it is possible to give the user the feeling of being held by a large hand from the outside.

 In the experiment, participants were asked to hold the robot with their dominant hand, and pain was applied to the opposite arm from a heat stimulator.The pain felt during that period and the degree of anxiety before and after the application of pain were verified by oral interviews, questionnaires, and saliva analysis.

 From the results of oral hearing (66 people), the pain value was significantly reduced under the robot wearing condition.In addition, when the user squeezed and the robot squeezed back, oxytocin in saliva (a hormone that decreases as stress decreases) tended to decrease.In addition, the results of a questionnaire about eight specific injection experiences showed a significant decrease in fear of injections after participating in the experiment.

 In the future, the research team aims to fuse real-world robots with virtual world methods such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), expanding the scenes and applications, and alleviating people's pain and anxiety.

Paper information:[Scientific Reports] A wearable soft robot that can alleviate the pain and fear of the wearer

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