Demonstrated during this month's International Robot Exhibition (IREX) in Tokyo, Jukusui-Kun is a polar bear-shaped robotic pillow that, like Paro the seal-bot, masks a serious purpose beneath its cute and cuddly exterior. Jukusui-Kun is designed to help snorers and those who live with them - whenever snoring becomes too loud (and sleep apnea becomes a danger), the robot raises its paw and gently touches the sleeper's face to trigger a change of sleeping position.
As well as being quite irritating for family members, snoring might be a sign of sleep apnea. These dangerous pauses in breathing during sleep effect an estimated 2 million people in Japan alone - and it cannot be underestimated.
Basically, sleep apnea is associated with blood oxygen saturation. Therefore, the pillow bear works with a pulse-oxygen meter attached to sleeper's hand (in the form of a baby polar bear), which tracks the amount of oxygen in the blood. It's wirelessly connected to a terminal that analyzes the data and remotely controls the bear. There's also a microphone hidden inside the pillow which measures the level of noise caused by snoring.
When the oxygen level drops and noise increases at the same time, Jukusui-Kun slowly and gently raises its paw to brush the patient's face, thus causing a change of position without waking. This change in sleeping position from the back to the side encourages a snoreless night.
Jukusui-Kun, which means "deep sleep" in Japanese, was developed by researchers from Tokyo's Waseda University. There are no plans to introduce a commercial version at this stage.