Plush robot bear-pillow fights sleep apnea with face-tickles

Waseda University's Kabe Lab exhibited Jukusui-kun, a robotic bear, at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo earlier this month. Jukusui-kun is a medical appliance intended for people who have sleep apnea, a sleep disorder typified by loud snoring, which can have grave health effects on its sufferers. Jukusui-kun is a plush bear that you use as a pillow, which receives blood-oxygen readings from a monitor on the sleeper's hand. When oxygen levels drop (people with apnea stop breathing for long periods -- the snore is a kind of gasp for air), the bear's robot arm reaches around and tickles its user's face, so that the user rolls onto his side, where breathing is less labored.

Dr Kabe’s Jukusuri-Kun works through the person asleep wearing a similarly cute pulse-oxygen meter attached to the hand which sends readings of the amount of oxygen in the blood to a terminal running a program with the persons vital statistics pre-programmed in. To eliminate the intrusion of wires preventing a good sleep the team also developed a cordless technology which uses the human bodies natural conductive properties to communicate with a conductive sheet that lies under the bed sheet. The pillow itself also houses a microphone which analyses the decibel level of the snorer. When the oxygen level decreases in the patient resulting in the snore level increasing it triggers the bear-pillow’s hand to move towards the sleepers face. Gently brushing the face causes the person to then turn from lying on their back to moving onto their side, a more conducive postion for a sound, snoreless nights sleep.

Robotic Bear Helps Quieten Snorers (via Red Ferret)


  1. That’s cute, I guess, and it seems to have that flair that the Japanese apply to their designed products BUT….I’m not sure if it’s a better solution than a CPAP machine. It doesn’t prevent the snoring or the apnea, it just nudges the sleeper into a new position, possibly waking them. It’s not just the fact that you can stop breathing that makes apnea bad, but all the side effects which include interrupted sleep cycles, less oxygen, and all that. 

    I personally can’t sleep on my side, even though that’s recommended for sleep apnea, because I have other issues, spinal and otherwise, which require me to lie on my back. (I also have to balance out my acid reflux–vomiting bile into your sleep snorkel’s tube is ….well, unpleasant to say the least.)  The CPAP machine allows me lie on my back, it doesn’t let the apnea happen to start with, and it doesn’t wake me up or force me to adjust. (I do occasionally have aerophagia if I don’t put my jaw strap on tight enough–so THAT can be an issue, alas.)

    Neat idea though, and certainly a creative,  if not truly preventative approach.

  2. Lis nailed it there; this is only a fancier and cuter version of the old trick of sewing a tennis ball into the back of someone’s pajamas to keep them from sleeping prone. 

  3. Much better than a no-chance-at-having-a-relationship bi-pap/cpap machine. At least women would find a bear cute, unlike turning into Darth Vader at night.

    I wonder how useful it is if you stay on your side all night though? I think I’ve trained my body to do so quite well, but still have big apnea problems.

    Of course, as usual it does no good if it costs $4000 to those of us with no income who can’t get their apnea treated.

  4. Sleep apnea here, also double-Trochanteric bursitis from sleeping on my sides for most of my life. So I can’t sleep on my sides any more.

    Sleeping on your side is only a treatment for mild apnea anyways – more serious cases require some sort of airway support (the CPAP machine does this with positive airway pressure). If your apnea is mild enough to be treated merely by side-sleeping, and you don’t have bursitis, the tennis-ball trick is pretty darn cheap and much less creepy. More visible but still much simpler than a robot is sleeping with a body pillow or two to keep you on your side. The body pillow routine might be better for you too – providing better body support so less likely for you to give yourself bursitis or back problems.

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