Robotics firm promises new robot masseuse will be different this time

It's not unusual for a company to try and innovate on an existing products or technology, but robotics firm Flexiv promises that its massaging robot won't be like the mechanical massagers of the past.
John Loeffler
A Flexiv robotic masseuse massages a man on a table
A Flexiv robotic masseuse massages a man on a table


Robotic or mechanical messagers are hardly a new idea, but a robotics firm called Flexiv is hoping that its new robot masseuse will succeed where others have succeeded at becoming a novelty at best and an embarrassing disaster at worst.

Announced earlier this week on its website, Flexiv is debuting its Rizon 4 robot which has been developed to enable a fully automatic massage experience.

"Powered by artificial intelligence, computer vision, and force feedback, the robot can provide a massage equal to any human masseur," the company claims. "Able to target specific areas of the back or larger areas in general, the robot's soft silicone massage tool can accurately emulate the deep-pressure glide stroke commonly used in Tui Na, or as it is more widely known, Chinese deep tissue massage."

Purporting to possess a "world-class force sensitivity" of 0.03 newtons along with a host of AI and other advanced computer systems like 3D computer vision, Flexiv's Rizon 4 should be capable of giving completely customizable massage experiences based on the user. The one-type-fits-all approach of standard mechanical massagers like those built into reclining seats is one of the major limitations on this kind of technology, and to that end Flexiv does appear to have at least some awareness of the fact that massages are a deeply personal experience that would need to be replicated for its robot to ever take off in a meaningful way.

"We aim to make robotic massage mainstream and, in the process, reduce its cost while increasing its availability," said Yunfan Gao, Marketing Director for Flexiv. "People think nothing of buying food or drink from a vending machine, and we hope they will think the same way about purchasing a robotic massage.

"We believe that robotics will play an intrinsic part of everyday life in the future, democratizing access to services that are currently cost-prohibitive," Gao added. "I hope that one day our robotic masseur will be on hand in every clinic, spa, gym, and health club to provide a viable alternative to traditional massages."

Can a robotic masseuse ever really work?

The massaging robot isn't Flexiv's first attempt at a robot, and it's not even different than a robot Flexiv has already shown off this year.. A couple of months back, Flexiv introduced Moonlight, a parallel robotic arm capable of the fine motor control and force precision required for delicate robotic assembly such as electronics manufacturing. Incidentally, that kind of delicate manipulation is strikingly similar to the kind of handiwork done by a specially-trained masseuse, so a massaging robot isn't entirely out of left field.

If anything, the fact that Flexiv has been putting this technology to other proven purposes is definitely a mark in its favor and offers some assurance that the Rizon 4's newly acquired massage therapy skills are more than a gimmick like so many massaging technology that has come before it.

It is still probably a gimmick meant to sell the company's Rizon 4 industrial robots to customers who need delicate work done, though, just not to their physical persons. And what better way to advertise that your robot won't punch right through a smartphone display than to showcase what is effectively a software add-on to its industrial robots that allows the robotic arms to perform the same delicate techniques of a trained masseuse?

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board