CUTTING-EDGE tech worn by carers to help them lift people and objects is being trialled for the first time in the UK by Hampshire County Council.
The HAL Lumbar equipment – dubbed “cobots” – are aimed at reducing the risk of injury to employees in the care sector. They are worn around the lower back, and support workers as they lift weight.
The council is collaborating with the PA Consulting-led Argenti Care Technology Partnership to launch their use.
Japanese robotics developer Cyberdyne already have them in use in the country’s care sector.
The cobots use electrodes which can detect electrical signals between the wearer’s brain and muscles. These are then converted into motion.
HCC has been trialling the cobots since February and said results so far have been favourable.
It said the job of looking after a person with complex needs – which would previously have required two carers – could now be done by one.
This could alleviate worries that not enough carers will be recruited to the sector, with HCC reporting that an extra 6,000 will be needed over the next five years.
Cllr Liz Fairhurst, HCC cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “Through our partnership with PA Consulting, we are proud to be at the forefront of using technology in care to assist people to live as independently as possible.
“Our trial of cobots is all about our carers – kit which supports them and makes their job easier.”
Steve Carefull, social care technology expert at PA Consulting, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Hampshire County Council to help them use cobot technology to create a more positive human future for care.
“Now more than ever is the moment to embrace new technology. Our hope is that cobots could support care workers with the more physically demanding aspects of care, freeing carers up to focus on other aspects of human care or care for another vulnerable person.”
Prof. Yoshiyuki Sankai, president and CEO of Cyberdyne, said: “It is exciting to trial our HAL Lumbar type cobot for the first time in the UK with Hampshire County Council.
“We’re looking forward to uncovering the potential it has to improve the delivery of care for carers and those who need support.”