Robotics developed by a Thai entrepreneur is changing the face of elderly care in places as far away as Japan.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, Asia, including Australia and New Zealand, is the biggest market for robots with about 139,300 industrial robots sold in 2014, 41% higher than in 2013. Thai entrepreneurs have been developing robots of their own, thanks to talented students who have received international awards in robotics.
“There are numerous university students who have the necessary skills, yet there are few places that accept graduates [to work] in the robotics industry,” says Chalermpon Punnotok, CEO of CT Asia Robotics. “Our company focuses solely on service robots to help those in hospitals and homes.”
Especially for the elderly, something as simple as visiting a doctor can become problematic. The Dinsow robot, developed since 2009, can take care of the elderly and patients by monitoring body movements and vital signs with sensors that serve as portals for telemedicine with doctors. “What makes us different from other robot manufacturers is that their robots tend to be pure engineering and lack the human touch,” says Punnotok. “Dinsow can smile and even its name sounds down-to-earth.”
Launched in 2015, the latest Dinsow model, Dinsow Mini, is small so that it can be placed by the side of bedridden patients. However, for patients who can walk, there are bigger models that can follow them around. “The elderly tend to get lonely,” says Punnotok. “They are not ill every day, but they experience loneliness every day. With the robot, their children and grandchildren can call them, see them face-to-face and send them music and video clips.
There are also exercise functions and prayer functions.” He adds that the robots are already being used in several nursing homes in Japan. Hospitals in Bangkok such as Chulalongkorn and Phayathai are working with CT Asia Robotics to develop the robots by using them with patients. “The use of robots in hospitals is still at the development stage and will be in full-scale use from mid-2016 onwards,” he says. According to Punnotok, the company has already received orders from individuals, hospitals and nursing homes. He explains that the automobile supply chain in Thailand plays an important part in keeping prices low as many robotic parts can be shared with the automobile industry. Collaboration is what drives CT Asia Robotics.
“I am not an engineer but a marketer,” says Punnotok. “We have graphic designers, marketers, different branches of engineers and also partnerships with various hospitals in order to develop the robots. My long-term goal is to develop robots that can offer telemedicine services for patients who live far away from city centres and hospitals.” For more information, visit www.ctasia.com