Title:
AUTOMATIC HEAD CARE SYSTEM AND AUTOMATIC HEAD CARE METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A person's head is safely and reliably arranged in a proper position inside a bowl of an automatic head care system. In the case where a person's head is supported by a head support and accommodated inside a bowl and then where a pair of arms swing in a forward and rearward direction of the head and rotate in a direction of approaching to or separating away from the head to care the head with a plurality of contacts provided at the arms, an angular position of the swinging of at least one of the arms is controlled so that the arms are arranged in a substantially horizontal direction and then, when a pushing force of the contacts detected by a pressure sensor in the arms arranged in the substantially horizontal direction has reached a first pressure, it is confirmed that the head has been inserted into the bowl.



Inventors:
Fujioka, Soichiro (Osaka, JP)
Mizuno, Osamu (Nara, JP)
Hirose, Toshinori (Osaka, JP)
Nakamura, Tohru (Osaka, JP)
Application Number:
14/344942
Publication Date:
12/25/2014
Filing Date:
09/26/2012
Assignee:
PANASONIC CORPORATION
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
4/515
International Classes:
A45D19/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LOEPPKE, JANIE MEREDITH
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MARK D. SARALINO (PAN) (CLEVELAND, OH, US)
Claims:
1. An automatic head care system comprising: a bowl in which a head support is provided and which accommodates a person's head supported by the head support; a pair of support shafts arranged on right and left sides of the head support; a pair of arm rotation shafts being rotatable about the respective support shafts; a pair of arms being capable of swinging about the respective support shafts in a forward and rearward direction of the head supported by the head support, and being capable of rotating about the respective arm rotation shafts in a direction of approaching to or separating away from the head; a plurality of contacts provided at each of the pair of arms; a pressure sensor designed to detect a pushing force of the contacts; and a control section designed to control driving of the pair of arms to care the head supported by the head support, wherein the control section includes: a head insertion preparing unit designed to control at least one of the arms so that an angular position of the swinging about the support shaft is a horizontal position at which the arm is arranged in a substantially horizontal direction, as a preparing operation for insertion of the head into the bowl; and a head insertion confirming unit designed to confirm that the head has been inserted into the bowl when the pushing force detected by the pressure sensor in the arm subjected to the preparing operation has reached a first pressure.

2. The automatic head care system according to claim 1, wherein the control section further includes a pseudo elasticity forming unit designed to control the rotating of the arm subjected to the preparing operation so that when the pushing force detected by the pressure sensor for the arm has reached the first pressure, the pushing force is kept at the first pressure, as an elasticity forming operation of imparting pseudo elasticity to the arm.

3. The automatic head care system according to claim 1, wherein the control section includes: a simple scanning unit designed to detect angular positions of the swinging at times when the pushing force detected by the pressure sensor is a second pressure, as a simple scanning operation, after the head insertion confirming unit has confirmed insertion of the head; and a head height adjustment control unit designed to adjust a height of the head or promote a height adjustment of the head so as to reduce fluctuation in angular positions of the rotating at times when the angular positions of the swinging have been detected in the simple scanning operation.

4. The automatic head care system according to claim 3, wherein the control section includes a head supporting control unit designed to control the angular position of the swinging of at least one of the arms so that the arm can support the head from below during the height adjustment of the head, as a head supporting operation of supporting the head.

5. The automatic head care system according to claim 4, wherein the control section further includes a vertical movement following control unit designed to control the rotating of the arm subjected to the head supporting operation so that the plurality of contacts vertically move along with a vertical movement of the head during the height adjustment of the head.

6. The automatic head care system according to claim 1, wherein the control section includes a horizontal movement following control unit designed to control the swinging of the arm subjected to the head supporting operation so that the plurality of contacts of the arm horizontally moves when the head moves substantially horizontally toward the bowl with the preparing operation completed.

7. The automatic head care system according to claim 1, further comprising: a water supplying unit supplying water or hot water to the head; a washing liquid supplying unit supplying washing liquid to the head; and a conditioner supplying unit supplying conditioner to the head, wherein the control section supplies water, hot water, washing liquid, or conditioner to the head, and controls driving of the pair of arms to wash the head supported by the head support.

8. An automatic head care method comprising: accommodating a person's head inside a bowl with the head supported by a head support; and then swinging a pair of arms in a forward and rearward direction of the head about a pair of respective support shafts arranged on left and right sides of the head support, and rotating the pair of arms in a direction of approaching to or separating away from the head, about respective arm rotation shafts which extend in a direction substantially perpendicular to the support shafts, to care the head with a plurality of contacts provided at each of the pair of arms, wherein the method further comprises: controlling an angular position of the swinging of at least one of the arms about the support shaft so that the arm is arranged in a substantially horizontal direction, and then confirming that the head has been inserted into the bowl when a pushing force of the contacts detected by a pressure sensor in the arm arranged in the substantially horizontal direction has reached a first pressure.

9. The automatic head care method according to claim 8, comprising: controlling the rotating of the arm arranged in the substantially horizontal direction so that when the pushing force detected by the pressure sensor has reached the first pressure, the pushing force is kept at the first pressure, as an elasticity forming operation of imparting pseudo elasticity to the arms.

10. The automatic head care method according to claim 8, comprising: detecting angular positions of the swinging at times in which the pushing force detected by the pressure sensor is a second pressure, as a simple scanning operation, after confirming insertion of the head into the bowl; and adjusting a height of the head or promoting a height adjustment of the head so as to reduce fluctuation in angular positions of the rotating at times when the angular positions of the swinging have been detected in the simple scanning operation.

11. The automatic head care method according to claim 10, comprising: controlling the angular position of the swinging of at least one of the arms so that the arm can support the head from below during the height adjustment of the head, as a head supporting operation of supporting the head.

12. The automatic head care method according to claim 11, comprising: controlling the rotating of the arm subjected to the head supporting operation so that the plurality of contacts vertically moves along with a vertical movement of the head during the height adjustment of the head.

13. The automatic head care method according to claim 8, comprising: controlling the swinging of the arm arranged in the substantially horizontal direction so that the plurality of contacts of the arm horizontally moves along with a horizontal movement of the head when the head moves substantially horizontally in a direction of being inserted into or ejected from the bowl.

14. The automatic head care method according to any claim 8, comprising: supplying water, hot water, washing liquid, or conditioner to the head, and washing the head with the plurality of contacts provided each of the pair of arms.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to an automatic head care system for automatically caring a person's head.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A hair washing has been known as one of the typical person's head cares. In the industry of beauty care including hair styling and hair cutting, head washing is laborious and has been desired to be automated. Also in the medical field, head washing for inpatients is laborious and has been desired to be automated.

There has been known, for example, an automatic hair washing apparatus disclosed in Patent Document 1 for washing a person's head automatically. The automatic hair washing apparatus has a bowl for accommodating the person's head, a head support net for supporting the head from below in the bowl, and a plurality of nozzles for ejecting washing water from below toward the head. The automatic hair washing apparatus ejects water from the nozzles, thereby washing hair of the person's head supported by the head support net. In the automatic hair washing apparatus, ejecting pressure of each of the nozzles is controlled to be switched at predetermined time intervals. Patent Document 1 discloses that such control allows a person whose hair is washed by the automatic hair washing apparatus to feel as if his head is massaged by hand.

Patent Document 1: WO 2010/090005 A1

Disadvantageously, when the automatic hair washing apparatus disclosed in Patent Document 1 is used, a position of a person's head in the bowl relies on how to place the head on the head support net. Therefore, the head is not always suitably positioned. Depending on the head's position, there may remain an unwashed part of the head after hair washing with the automatic hair washing apparatus.

In order to solve this problem, the automatic hair washing apparatus can be provided with a device for forcibly disposing a person's head at a predetermined position. However, in this case, a straining force can be applied on the person's head. As a result, a sufficient safety is required for the device in order to prevent the straining force on the person's head.

The present invention is to solve these problems and provide an automatic head care system and an automatic head care method for disposing a person's head in position in a bowl in a safe and reliable manner.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

For this purpose, an automatic head care system according to the present invention includes:

a bowl in which a head support is provided and which accommodates a person's head supported by the head support;

a pair of support shafts arranged on right and left sides of the head support;

a pair of arm rotation shafts being rotatable about the respective support shafts;

a pair of arms being capable of swinging about the respective support shafts in a forward and rearward direction of the head supported by the head support, and being capable of rotating about the respective arm rotation shafts in a direction of approaching to or separating away from the head;

a plurality of contacts provided at each of the pair of arms;

a pressure sensor designed to detect a pushing force of the contacts; and

a control section designed to control driving of the pair of arms to care the head supported by the head support,

in which the control section has:

a head insertion preparing unit designed to control at least one of the arms so that an angular position of the swinging about the support shaft is a horizontal position at which the arm is arranged in a substantially horizontal direction, as a preparing operation for insertion of the head into the bowl; and

a head insertion confirming unit designed to confirm that the head has been inserted into the bowl when the pushing force detected by the pressure sensor in the arm subjected to the preparing operation has reached a first pressure.

Also, for the above purpose, an automatic head care method according to the present invention includes:

accommodating a person's head inside a bowl with the head supported by a head support; and then

swinging a pair of arms in a forward and rearward direction of the head about a pair of respective support shafts arranged on left and right sides of the head support, and rotating the pair of arms in a direction of approaching to or separating away from the head, about respective arm rotation shafts which extend in a direction substantially perpendicular to the support shafts, to care the head with a plurality of contacts provided at each of the pair of arms,

in which the method further includes:

controlling an angular position of the swinging of at least one of the arms about the support shaft so that the arm is arranged in a substantially horizontal direction, and then

confirming that the head has been inserted into the bowl when a pushing force of the contacts detected by a pressure sensor for the arm arranged in the substantially horizontal direction has reached a first pressure.

Advantages of the Invention

According to the present invention, an excessive load on a person's head can be prevented. Therefore, the person's head can be safely and reliably arranged at a proper position in a bowl.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagram showing a schematic configuration of an automatic head washing system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing an automatic head washing apparatus of the automatic head washing system in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a plan view showing the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a diagram showing a configuration of a first part of a driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 5 is a diagram showing a configuration of a second part of a driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 6A is a diagram showing a configuration of a third part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 6B is a diagram showing the configuration of the third part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 7 is a diagram illustrating an operation of the second part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view showing a specific example of the second part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view showing a schematic configuration of a contact unit of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 10A is a diagram illustrating an operation of a fourth part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2

FIG. 10B is a diagram illustrating the operation of the fourth part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2

FIG. 11 is a diagram illustrating a first operating direction of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 12 is a diagram illustrating a second operating direction of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 13 is a diagram illustrating a third operating direction of the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 14 is a diagram showing a configuration of a control device of the automatic head washing system in FIG. 1.

FIG. 15 is a flow chart showing a system operating flow of the control device in FIG. 14.

FIG. 16 is a schematic table as an example of a second table created in a calibration step in the system operating flow in FIG. 15.

FIG. 17 is a schematic table as an example of a first table created in a scanning step in the system operating flow in FIG. 15.

FIG. 18 is a flow chart showing details of a washing step in the system operating flow in FIG. 15.

FIG. 19 is a flow chart showing details of a massaging step in the system operating flow in FIG. 15.

FIG. 20 is a block diagram showing constituents of a system control section of the control device in FIG. 14.

FIG. 21 is a flow chart showing details of a head accepting step in the system operating flow in FIG. 15.

FIG. 22 is a plan view schematically showing a state of arms after execution of a head insertion preparing step in FIG. 21.

FIG. 23 is a block diagram showing a configuration of an arm swing angle control section and an arm pushing angle control section of the control device in FIG. 14.

FIG. 24A is a diagram illustrating swinging of the arm in the case where a head is supported by one or both arms from below in a head insertion confirming step and a head height adjusting step in FIG. 21.

FIG. 24B is a diagram illustrating push-rotating of the arm in the case where a head is supported by one or both arms from below in the head insertion confirming step and the head height adjusting step in FIG. 21.

FIG. 25 is a diagram illustrating a swing range determining step in FIG. 21.

FIG. 26 is a diagram illustrating a simple scanning step in FIG. 21.

FIG. 27 is a diagram illustrating an extendable mechanism in the automatic head washing apparatus in FIG. 2.

FIG. 28A is a first flow chart showing details of a head insertion position adjusting step in FIG. 21.

FIG. 28B is a second flow chart showing details of the head insertion position adjusting step in FIG. 21.

FIG. 29A is a first flow chart showing details of the head height adjusting step in FIG. 21.

FIG. 29B is a second flow chart showing details of the head height adjusting step in FIG. 21.

EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

With reference to the drawings, an embodiment according to the present invention will be described hereinafter. Like elements are denoted by like reference numerals to avoid duplicate descriptions and descriptions thereof may be omitted. Each drawing mainly shows structural element or elements schematically for the better understanding thereof.

In the present specification, the term “water” is used in a broader sense including “hot water”. In other words, the term “water” in the present specification means “water or hot water”. In the present specification, the term “hot water” is used in a narrower sense including only “hot water”.

An automatic head washing system for automatically washing a person's head will be described in this embodiment as an example of an automatic head care system for automatically caring a person's head. It should be noted that “head care” includes washing person's scalp and hair and massaging person's head throughout the present specification. In the present specification, “left” or “right” refers to the direction viewed from the person whose head is cared.

FIG. 1 is a side view showing a schematic configuration of an automatic head washing system 1 in accordance with this embodiment. As shown in FIG. 1, the automatic head washing system 1 has an automatic head washing apparatus 100 for automatically washing a head, a support table 550 supporting the automatic head washing apparatus 100, and a reclining seat 500 on which a person 8 whose head 10 is washed by the automatic head washing apparatus 100 is seated. The automatic head washing apparatus 100 has a bowl 101 and a hood 113.

The reclining seat 500 has a seat 501, a footrest 502, and a backrest 503. A lower end of the backrest 503 is rotatably coupled to the seat 501 through a rotation shaft 505. When it is defined that, among the seat 501, the footrest 502, and the backrest 503 which constitute the reclining seat 500, the footrest 502 is located on a “front side” and the backrest 503 is located on a “rear side”, the automatic head washing apparatus 100 is installed in the “rear” of the reclining seat 500.

The reclining seat 500 is supported by a base 520 placed on a floor surface 509 via a height adjusting device 510. The height adjusting device 510 is extendable in the vertical direction. The height of the reclining seat 500 and the height of the head 10 of the person 8 on the reclining seat 500 can be adjusted in the height direction by contraction or extension of the height adjusting device 510. Although not shown in FIG. 1, the reclining seat 500 has a reclining device 508 reclining the backrest 503 (see FIG. 14).

The base 520 is provided with a horizontally moving device 530 horizontally moving the reclining seat 500 in the forward and rearward direction. The horizontally moving device 530 horizontally moves the reclining seat 500 in the forward and rearward direction, thereby adjusting the position of the head 10 of the person 8 on the reclining seat 500 in the forward and rearward direction.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing a schematic configuration of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. FIG. 3 is a plan view showing the schematic configuration of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. FIG. 4 is a diagram showing a configuration of a first part of a driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. FIG. 5 is a diagram showing a configuration of a second part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. In FIG. 4 and FIG. 5, a vertical direction is shown as a Z axis, and directions perpendicular to the Z axis are shown as an X axis and a Y axis.

As shown in FIG. 2 and FIG. 3, the bowl 101 of the automatic head washing apparatus 100 encloses a rear half of the person's head 10. A head support member 112 as a head support 11 supporting the person's head 10 is provided on the bottom of the bowl 101. Support columns 102L and 102R are mounted in a housing 101a of the bowl 101. The support columns 102L and 102R are arranged on the left and right sides of the head support 11, respectively.

the automatic head washing apparatus 100 comprises a washing unit 12 washing the person's head 10 in the bowl 101. The washing unit 12 has a left washing unit 12L on the left side of the head support 11 and a right washing unit 12R on the right side of the head support 11.

Mainly the left washing unit 12L, among the left and right washing units 12L and 12R, is now described. The right washing unit 12R and the left washing unit 12L have the same configuration except that they are symmetric.

The left washing unit 12L has a support shaft 104L coupled to the support column 102L, and can rotate about the support shaft 104L. Similarly, the right washing unit 12R has a support shaft 104R coupled to the support column 102R, and can rotate about the support shaft 104R. The support shafts 104L and 104R extend in the right and left direction toward the left and right sides of the head support 11.

The left washing unit 12L includes a left arm 114L and a pipe 111L. The left arm 114L includes an arm housing 115L. The arm housing 115L conforms to the outer shape of the left half of the head 10. Specifically, the arm housing 115L extends from its bottom end to its center in a substantially linear manner, and extends from the center to its tip end in a substantially arcuate manner. The arm housing 115L stores a first arm 105L, a second arm 106L, third arms 107L and 108L shown in FIG. 4.

As shown in FIG. 4, the pipe 111L of the left washing unit 12L has a plurality of nozzles 110 ejecting at least one of water, washing liquid, and conditioner. The nozzles 110 are provided on a surface of the pipe 111L, which is opposed to the head support 11. The pipe 111L is attached to an arm base 103L fixed to the support shaft 104L, and can rotate about the support shaft 104L together with the arm base 103L.

The first arm 105L is attached to the arm base 103L, and can rotate about the support shaft 104L together with the arm base 103L.

The first arm 105L rotatably supports the second arm 106L. The second arm 106L rotatably supports the two third arms 107L and 108L. A plurality of contacts 109 that make contact with the person's head 10 are attached to the third arms 107L and 108L. The contacts 109 are exposed on the outside of the arm housing 115L. The contacts 109 are made of an elastic rubber material, for example.

A motor 201L is arranged in the support column 102L. A rotation output of the motor 201L is transmitted to the support shaft 104L through a gear 203L attached to a motor rotation output shaft 202L and a gear 204L attached to the support shaft 104L. The arm base 103L attached to the support shaft 104L can be driven by the rotation output transmitted from the motor 201L to be rotatable in the direction of an arrow 205L.

A motor 206L and an arm rotation shaft 209L are arranged in the arm base 103L. The arm rotation shaft 209L is arranged substantially perpendicular to the support shaft 104L, and can rotate about the support shaft 104L together with the arm base 103L and the arms 105L, 106L, 107L, and 108L. A rotation output of the motor 206L is transmitted to the first arm 105L through a gear 207L attached to a motor rotation output shaft 207La and a gear 208L attached to the arm rotation shaft 209L. The first arm 105L can be driven by the rotation output transmitted from the motor 206L to be rotatable about the arm rotation shaft 209L in the direction of an arrow 210L.

The first arm 105L includes a pressure sensor 211L detecting a force to push the person's head 10, and rotatably supports the second arm 106L through the support shaft 212L. The second arm 106L rotatably supports the third arms 107L and 108L through the support shafts 213L and 214L, respectively.

The automatic head washing apparatus 100 has a water system valve 216, a washing liquid system valve 217, and a conditioner system valve 218. Outlets of the water system valve 216, the washing liquid system valve 217, and the conditioner system valve 218 are connected to one another in parallel, and are connected to the pipes 111L and 111R through a piping 219.

An inlet of the water system valve 216 is connected to a water system supplying unit to receive water from the outside. An inlet of the washing liquid system valve 217 is connected to a mixing unit 220 mixing washing liquid with compressed air to receive a mousse-like washing liquid produced by mixing the washing liquid from the washing liquid supplying unit 222 supplying washing liquid such as shampoo with compressed air in the mixing unit 220. An inlet of the conditioner system valve 218 is connected to the conditioner supplying unit 221 to receive conditioner from the conditioner supplying unit 221.

In the automatic head washing apparatus 100, the water system valve 216, the washing liquid system valve 217, and the conditioner system valve 218 can appropriately be controlled to cause the plurality of nozzles 110 provided on the pipes 111L and 111R to eject water, a mousse-like washing liquid, or conditioner. A path supplying conditioner may be configured such that mist-like conditioner is ejected. To eject the mist-like conditioner, in addition to the nozzles 110, nozzles capable of spraying the conditioner may be provided, and the conditioner system valve 218 may be connected to the nozzles.

As shown in FIG. 27, in the automatic head washing apparatus 100 in this embodiment, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are provided with link mechanisms extending and contracting the arms 114L and 114R. As shown in FIG. 27, in the automatic head washing apparatus 100 in this embodiment, the arms 114L and 114R are configured of five-joint link mechanisms as an example of an extendable mechanism capable of extending and contracting the arms 114L and 114R. The link mechanisms allow the apparatus to provide more preferable care according to the shape and size of the head 10. In this embodiment, the arms 114L and 114R can be extended and contracted by changing an extension angle θX shown in FIG. 27.

In the automatic head washing apparatus 100 in this embodiment, a magnet 121 is provided at a distal end of the arm 114R, and a magnetic sensor 122 is provided at a distal end of the arm 114L. A combination of the magnet 121 and the magnetic sensor 122 is an example of an arm closeness detector. The arm closeness detector can detect closeness between the arms 114L and 114R and a distance between the arms 114L and 114R. An ultrasonic sensor or a distance sensor may be alternatively used as the arm closeness detector.

First, an operating flow of the automatic head washing apparatus 100 as a feature of the present invention will be described. The specific configuration of the automatic head washing apparatus 100 will be described later with reference to FIG. 5 to FIG. 13.

FIG. 14 is a diagram showing a configuration of a control device 700 of the automatic head washing system 1.

The control device 700 has arm swing angle control sections 701L and 701R, arm pushing angle control sections 702L and 702R, and contact group angle control sections 703L and 703R.

The arm swing angle control sections 701L and 701R, the arm pushing angle control sections 702L and 702R, and the contact group angle control sections 703L and 703R are provided in the left and right arms 114L and 114R. The left arm swing angle control section 701L controls the angle of swinging of the left arm 114L. The right arm swing angle control section 701R controls the angle of swinging of the right arm 114R. The left arm pushing angle control section 702L controls the angle of push-rotating of the left arm 114L. The right arm pushing angle control section 702R controls the angle of push-rotating of the right arm 114R. The left contact group angle control section 703L controls the angle of knead-rotating of a contact group L of the left arm 114L. The right contact group angle control section 703R controls the angle of knead-rotating of a contact group R of the right arm 114R.

The control device 700 as an example of a control section has a water system valve control section 704 controlling opening and closing of the water system valve 216, a washing liquid system valve control section 705 controlling opening and closing of the washing liquid system valve 217, and a conditioner system valve control section 706 controlling opening and closing of the conditioner system valve 218.

The control device 700 further has a reclining control section 709 controlling the reclining device 508, a height adjustment control section 710 controlling the height adjusting device 510, and a horizontal movement control section 711 controlling the horizontally moving device 530. However, in this embodiment, the reclining control section 709, the height adjustment control section 710, and the horizontal movement control section 711 are not necessarily provided in the control device 700, and may be provided in a dedicated control device controlling the operation of the reclining seat 500. In this embodiment, the reclining angle, height adjustment, and horizontal movement of the reclining seat 500 may be manually controlled. In this case, the reclining control section 709, the height adjustment control section 710, and the horizontal movement control section 711 can be omitted.

The control device 700 has an operating section 707 receiving an input manipulated by a person. The operating section 707 is, for example, a touch panel-type operating section, and has a function of displaying various operating states of the automatic head washing system 1. However, the automatic head washing system 1 may have a display section displaying various operating states of the automatic head washing system 1, which is separate from the operating section 707.

The control device 700 includes a system control section 708. The system control section 708 comprehensively manages and controls each of the above-mentioned sections (the arm swing angle control sections 701L and 701R, the arm pushing angle control sections 702L and 702R, the contact group angle control sections 703L and 703R, the water system valve control section 704, the washing liquid system valve control section 705, the conditioner system valve control section 706, the reclining control section 709, the height adjustment control section 710, the horizontal movement control section 711, and the operating section 707). The system control section 708 is provided with a storage unit 708A storing various types of information.

Based on the input received by the operating section 707, the control device 700 controls the swing angle and the pushing angle of the left arm 114L and the right arm 114R, the knead-rotating angles of the contact group L and the contact group R, the reclining angle, height adjustment, and horizontal movement of the reclining seat 500, and opening and closing of the water system valve 216, the washing liquid system valve 217, and the conditioner system valve 218, in cooperation, by means of the system control section 708. In this manner, the automatic head washing system 1 achieves the automatic head washing operation.

With reference to FIG. 15, the operating flow of the control device 700 of the automatic head washing system 1 will be described. The operating flow in FIG. 15 is started by activating the control device 700 of the automatic head washing system 1. The present invention is characterized by head accepting steps S206 and S218 in FIG. 15.

Upon activation of the control device 700, first, a calibration step S201 is executed. The calibration step S201 is a step of calculating tables 902L (see FIG. 16) and 902R eliminating and correcting the effect of gravity applied to members between the pressure sensors 211L and 211R and the head 10 on output values of the pressure sensors 211L and 211R. In the calibration step S201, in the state where the head 10 is not inserted into the bowl 101 (the head 10 is not in contact with the contact groups L and R), values of the pressure sensors 211L and 211R of the arms 114L and 114R are measured for each combination of the swing angle and the pushing angle. Then, the tables 902L and 902R are created based on the measured values, and are stored in the storage unit 708A. The values of the pressure sensors 211L and 211R in the tables 902L and 902R are measured in the state where the head 10 is not inserted into the bowl 101 while varying both of swing angles θSL and θSR and pushing angles θPL and θPR, or while varying the swing angles θSL and θSR and keeping the pushing angles θPL and θPR at a predetermined angle (for example, 10 degrees). Based on the values of the tables 902L and 902R, in the following steps, the effect of gravity applied to the members between the pressure sensors 211L and 211R and the head 10 on output values of the pressure sensors 211L and 211R is eliminated and corrected to calculate offset values corresponding to various positions of the arms 114L and 114R.

Next, in a mode selecting operation confirming step S202, the automatic head washing apparatus 100 determines whether or not a person has selected any of a washing mode, a massage mode, or an end mode. The washing mode refers to a mode of controlling opening and closing of the water system valve 216, the washing liquid system valve 217, or the conditioner system valve 218 to wash hair. The massage mode refers to a mode of massaging the head 10 by use of the left and right arms 114L and 114R and the contact groups L and R. The end mode refers to a mode of terminating the system operation of the control device 700.

In the mode selecting operation confirming step S202, it is determined whether or not any mode is selected, and when it is determined that any mode is selected (“YES” in step S202), the procedure proceeds to a next step.

In a next washing mode selection confirming step S203, the automatic head washing apparatus 100 determines whether or not the mode selected by the person is the washing mode. When it is determined that the washing mode is selected (“YES” in step S203), the below-mentioned washing mode is executed. When it is determined that the mode selected by the person is a mode other than the washing mode in the washing mode selection confirming step S203 (“NO” in step S203), the procedure proceeds to a massage mode selection confirming step S204.

In the massage mode selection confirming step S204, the automatic head washing apparatus 100 determines whether the mode selected by the person is the massage mode or the end mode. When it is determined that the massage mode is selected (“YES” in step S204), the below-mentioned massage mode is executed. When it is determined that the end mode is selected (“NO” in step S204), the system operation is terminated.

Next, the washing mode will be described.

In the washing mode, first, in a first safety confirming step S205, a necessary confirming operation before insertion of the person's head 10 into the bowl 101 is performed. Specifically, in the confirming step S205, the presence or absence of any article attached to the person's head 10 is confirmed. Specifically, the presence or absence of the article attached to hair on the person's head 10, such as a hair pin or a hair band, is confirmed. When some attached article is found, the automatic head washing apparatus 100 outputs voice or video that requires the person to remove the article. In the first safety confirming step S205, the automatic head washing apparatus 100 may confirm whether or not a water shield visor is attached to the person's head 10. In this case, when it is confirmed that the water shield visor is not attached, voice or video that requires the person to attach the water shield visor is outputted.

Next, in the head accepting step S206, a preparing operation for inserting the person's head 10 into the bowl 101 is performed. Since the head accepting step S206 is the most characteristic part of the present invention, the specific operation thereof will be described later in detail with reference to FIG. 20 to FIG. 29.

In a next scanning step S207, tables 901L (see FIG. 17) and 901R are acquired, and are stored in the storage unit 708A. In the scanning step S207, in the state where the left and right arms 114L and 114R are pushed onto the head 10 with a substantially uniform pressure (or alternately pushed onto and released form the head 10 for every predetermined swing angle), while gradually increasing the swing angles θSL and θSR of the arms 114L and 114R from 0 degrees, the pushing angles θPL and θPR at the plurality of predetermined swing angles θSL and θSR during swinging are detected, and are stored in the storage unit 708A. Such operation of detecting and storing values of the pushing angles θPL and θPR, which correspond to values of the swing angles θSL and θSR, is referred to as a “scanning operation”. The tables 901L and 901R are created based on correspondence relation between the swing angles θSL and θSR and the pushing angles θPL and θPR, which can be found by the scanning operation.

Next, a washing step S208 is executed. In the washing step S208, as shown in FIG. 18, a warm-up step S401, a water-washing step S402, a shampoo step S403, a kneading step S404, a rinsing step S405, a draining step S406, a conditioner step S407, a rinsing step S408, and a draining step S409 are in turn executed.

In the warm-up step S401, a preparing operation of enabling supply of hot water at a suitable temperature. Specifically, the automatic head washing apparatus 100 waits until the temperature of supplied hot water become the suitable temperature while slightly opening the water system valve 216 to continually flow a small amount of hot water supplied from a water heater connected to the automatic head washing apparatus 100.

In the water-washing step S402, hot water is ejected from the plurality of nozzles 110 toward the entire head 10 while swinging the left and right arms 114L and 114R. Specifically, first, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are swingingly rotated up to the front of the head 10 (the angular position of 130 degrees) while keeping the pushing angles at the angular position of 0 degrees (release state). Subsequently, the water system valve 216 is opened in the state where the swing angles of the arms 114L and 114R is kept so as to be at the front of the head 10 (the angular position of 130 degrees) to eject hot water from the plurality of nozzles 110 of the pipes 111L and 111R toward hair on the head 10. Next, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are swung so as to be reciprocated several times in the range of 0 to 130 degrees to eject hot water from the nozzles 110 toward hair, thereby ejecting hot water to the entire head 10 and impregnating hair with hot water.

In the water-washing step S402, hot water is ejected toward the head 10 while the swing angles and the pushing angles of the left and right arms 114L and 114R, and the knead-rotating angles of the contact groups L and R are varied, so that hair of the head 10 is washed and kneaded. It is desirable that, first, the contact groups L and R are fixed at the position of 30 degrees, and pushing force control is often turned ON only during swinging from the front (the angular position of 130 degrees) to the rear (the angular position of 0 degrees) of the head 10. This can achieve an operation like brushing from the front to the rear of the head 10.

In the shampoo step S403, washing liquid is ejected from the plurality of nozzles 110 while swinging the left and right arms 114L and 114R to pour the washing liquid to the entire head 10. Specifically, first, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are swung up to the front of the head 10 (the angular position of 130 degrees) while keeping the pushing angles at 0 degrees. Subsequently, the washing liquid system valve 217 is opened in the state where the swing angles of the arms 114L and 114R are kept at the front of the head 10 (the angular position of 130 degrees) to eject washing liquid such as shampoo from the plurality of nozzles 110 of the pipes 111L and 111R toward hair on the head 10. The washing liquid is ejected to the entire head 10 while the left and right arms 114L and 114R are swung so as to be reciprocated several times in the range of 0 to 130 degrees.

In the kneading step S404, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are push-rotated in a direction of approaching to the head 10 to bring the plurality of contacts 109 into contact with the head 10 and then, are swung in combination with a kneading operation by the plurality of contacts 109, so that hair of the head 10 is washed and kneaded. Specifically, the swing angles and the pushing angles of the left and right arms 114L and 114R, and the knead-rotating of the contact groups L and R are varied, so that the entire head 10 is washed and kneaded by the contact groups L and R. In the kneading step S404, it is desired that a command value of a pushing force in pushing force control of the left and right arms 114L and 114R is first set to be low, and is increased gradual or stepwise manner. This can achieve soft kneading and comfortable washing operations for the person.

As in the water-washing step S402, in the rinsing step S405, the water system valve 216 is opened to eject hot water from the nozzles 110, while the swing angles and the pushing angles of the left and right arms 114L and 114R, and the knead-rotating of the contact groups L and R are varied. In the rinsing step S405, first, a pushing control system of the left and right arms 114L and 114R is turned OFF, and then the washing liquid is roughly washed off with hot water in the release state. Next, the pushing control system is turned ON, and then the contact groups L and R are reciprocated to perform knead-rotating, thereby achieving efficient rinsing. In the final phase of the rinsing step S405, it is desired that the contact groups L and R are fixed at the position of 30 degrees, and pushing force control is often turned ON only during swinging from the front (the angular position of 130 degrees) to the rear (the angular position of 0 degrees) of the head 10. Through this operation, hair messed in the kneading step S404 can be effectively brushed.

In the draining step S406, the water system valve 216 is closed to inhibit ejection of hot water from the nozzles 110. In the state where the knead-rotating angles of the contact groups L and R are fixed, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are swung so as to be reciprocated. Specifically, it is preferred that pushing force control is turned ON only during swinging from the front (the angular position of 130 degrees) to the rear (the angular position of 0 degrees) of the head 10, and is turned OFF during swinging from the rear (the angular position of 0 degrees) to the front (the angular position of 130 degrees) to put into the release state. Through this operation, hot water contained in hair can be effectively squeezed out while preventing hair from being kneaded against.

In the conditioner step S407, first, the left and right arms 114L and 114R swing up to the front of the head 10 (the position of 130 degrees) while keeping the pushing angles in the release state. Subsequently, the conditioner system valve 218 is opened with the arms 114L and 114R being stopped at the front of the head 10 (the angular position of 130 degrees), thereby causing the plurality of nozzles 110 of the pipes 111L and 111R to eject conditioner such as rinse to hair on the head 10. In the case where a conditioner nozzle is provided in addition to the nozzles 110, mist-like conditioner is ejected from the conditioner nozzle. The left and right arms 114L and 114R reciprocate several times in the range of 0 to 130 degrees and swing, ejecting conditioner to the entire head 10. In the final phase of the conditioner step S407, preferably, in the state where the conditioner system valve 218 is closed to inhibit ejection of conditioner from the nozzles 110, pushing force control is turned ON only during swinging from the front (the angular position of 130 degrees) to the rear (the angular position of 0 degrees) of the head 10, and is turned OFF during swinging from the rear (the angular position of 0 degrees) to the front (the angular position of 130 degrees) to be put into the release state. Through this operation, hair can be effectively impregnated with conditioner and be brushed.

When the conditioner step S407 is finished, the rinsing step S408 similar to the rinsing step S405 and the draining step S409 similar to the draining step S406 are sequentially executed. To prevent reduction of the effect of conditioner due to excessive rinsing, it is preferable to set a rinsing time in the rinsing step S408 following the conditioner step S407 to be smaller than a rinsing time in the rinsing step S405 following the shampoo step S403. When conditioner requiring no rinsing is used, the rinsing step S408 after the conditioner step S407 can be omitted.

In the washing step S208, during execution of the warm-up step S401, the water-washing step S402, the shampoo step S403, the kneading step S404, the rinsing step S405, the draining step S406, the conditioner step S407, the rinsing step S408, and the draining step S409, a second safety confirming step S209 in FIG. 15 is appropriately executed.

Next, in the second safety confirming step S209, the state of the automatic head washing system 1 during execution of the washing step S208 is monitored. Specifically, for example, a current value or an operating angle of each motor in the automatic head washing system 1 is monitored, and if an abnormality is found, it is informed to the person and an instruction to forcedly interrupt the washing operation is made.

In an interruption confirming step S210, it is confirmed whether or not an instruction to interrupt the washing operation is manually made during execution of the washing step S208 or an instruction to forcedly interrupt the washing operation is made in the second safety confirming step S209. When either of the interruption instructions is confirmed (“YES” in step S210), a below-mentioned interruption processing step S211 is executed, and the whole operation is completed through a below-mention head release step S215 and a below-mentioned pipe washing step S216. When no interruption instruction is confirmed (“NO” in step S210), the procedure proceeds to a washing operation completion confirming step S212.

In the washing operation completion confirming step S212, it is confirmed whether or not the warm-up step S401, the water-washing step S402, the shampoo step S403, the kneading step S404, the rinsing step S405, the draining step S406, the conditioner step S407, the rinsing step S408, and the draining step S409 in the washing operation in FIG. 18 are completed. When completion of the steps is not confirmed (“NO” in step S212), the concerned step is continuously executed. When completion of the steps is confirmed (“YES” in step S212), the procedure proceeds to a next final washing operation confirming step S213. When it is determined in the final washing operation confirming step S213 that the final step (the draining step S409 in FIG. 18) in the washing operation is not completed (“NO” in step S213), in a washing operation switching step S214, the procedure switches to the next step in the washing operation in FIG. 18.

In the final washing operation confirming step S213, when completion of the final step (the draining step S409 in FIG. 18) in the washing step S208 is confirmed (“YES” in step S213), the procedure proceeds to the head release step S215.

The interruption processing step S211 will be described. In step S211, swinging and push-rotating of the left and right arms 114L and 114R, and knead-rotating of the contact groups L and R are stopped, and all of the water system valve 216, the washing liquid system valve 217, and the conditioner system valve 218 are closed. At stopping of push-rotating, pushing force control is turned OFF, and the angular position at this time is held. After that, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are push-rotated to the limit in the release direction such that the contact groups L and R are separated from the head 10 to the maximum.

The head release step S215 will be described. In step S215, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are arranged such that the head 10 is separated from the head support member 112 and easily comes out of the bowl 101. Specifically, first, as in the interruption processing step S211, swinging and push-rotating of the left and right arms 114L and 114R and knead-rotating of the contact groups L and R is stopped, and all of the water system valve 216, the washing liquid system valve 217, and the conditioner system valve 218 are closed. At stopping of push-rotating, pushing force control is turned OFF, and the angular position at this time is held. After that, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are push-rotated to the limit in the release direction such that the contact groups L and R are separated from the head 10 to the maximum. Further, in the head release step S215, the left and right arms 114L and 114R push-rotated in the release direction swing to the rear (the angular position of 0 degrees) of the head 10. As a result, as in the head accepting step S206, the left arm 114L and the right arm 114R are located at the bottom of the bowl 101 so as to have a gap therebetween. Thus, the head 10 can be taken out of the bowl 101 without any difficulty. In the head release step S215, when it is confirmed that the head 10 is taken out of the bowl 101, the next pipe washing step S216 is executed. It can be confirmed that the head 10 is taken out of the bowl 101 by using various sensors.

In the pipe washing step S216, the water system valve 216 is opened, and conditioner and so on remaining in the pipes 111L and 111R are washed out. Thereby, at the next washing operation, it can be prevented that conditioner and so on remaining in the pipes 111L and 111R are first ejected toward the person's head 10. This can prevent conditioner and so on remaining in the pipes 111L and 111R from becoming cured and clogging the piping.

When the pipe washing step S216 is finished, the entire operation of the washing mode is finished.

In the above-mentioned washing mode, since the swing angles and the pushing angles of the left and right arms 114L and 114R, the knead-rotating angles of the contact groups L and R, and the water system valve, the washing liquid system valve, and the conditioner system valve can be controlled in combination, the washing operation can be safely performed without putting any load on the person's neck.

Subsequently, the massage mode will be described.

In the massage mode, first, in a third safety confirming step S217, presence or absence of an article attached to the person's head 10, such as a hair pin or a hair band, is confirmed, and when any attached article is found, the automatic head washing apparatus 100 alerts the person to remove the attached article. The specific operation in this step is the same as that of the first safety confirming step S205 in the washing mode except that confirmation of attachment of the water shield visor is not required.

The next head accepting step S218 has the same operation as that of the head accepting step S206 in the washing mode. As described above, the specific operation of the head accepting steps S206 and S218 as the most characteristic part of the present invention will be described later in detail with reference to FIG. 20 to FIG. 29.

A scanning step S219 has the same operation as that of the scanning step S207 in the washing mode.

When the scanning step S219 is completed, a massaging step S220 is executed.

In the massaging step S220, as shown in FIG. 19, a slow in step S501, a massage step S502, and a slow out step S503 are sequentially executed. In the slow in step S501, the massage step S502, and the slow out step S503, the swing angles and the pushing angles of the left and right arms 114L and 114R, and the knead-rotating angles of the contact groups L and R are controlled in combination, and the contact groups L and R can massage the entire head 10. A command value of the pushing force in pushing force control of the left and right arms 114L and 114R is set to be relatively weak in the slow in step S501, to be relatively strong in the massage step S502, and to be relatively weak again in the slow out step S503. This can provide gentle massage at introduction and termination, which is comfortable to the user. In the massage mode, all of the water system valve 216, the washing liquid system valve 217, and the conditioner system valve 218 are closed.

In a fourth safety confirming step S221, the state of the automatic head washing system 1 during execution of the massaging step S220 (the steps S501, S502, S503 in FIG. 19). Specifically, for example, a current value or an operating angle of each motor in the automatic head washing system 1 is monitored, and if an abnormality is found, it is informed to the person and an instruction to forcedly interrupt massaging is made.

In an interruption confirming step S222, it is confirmed whether or not an instruction to interrupt massaging is manually made during execution of the massaging step S220 or an instruction to forcedly interrupt massaging is made in the fourth safety confirming step S221. When either of the interruption instructions is conformed (“YES” in step S222), a below-mentioned interruption processing step S223 is executed, and the entire operation is completed through a below-mentioned head releasing step S227. When no interruption instruction is conformed (“NO” in step S222), the procedure proceeds to a massage completion confirming step S224.

In the massage completion confirming step S224, it is confirmed whether or not the slow in step S501, the massage step S502, and the slow out step S503 in massaging in FIG. 19 are completed. When it is confirmed that the steps are not completed (“NO” in step S224), the concerned step is continuously executed. When it is confirmed that the steps are completed (“YES” in step S224), the procedure proceeds to a next final massage confirmation step S225. When it is determined in the final massage confirmation step S225 that the final step (the slow out step S503 in FIG. 19) in massaging is not completed (“NO” in step S225), in a massage switching step S226, the procedure switches to the next step in massaging in FIG. 19.

In the final massage confirmation step S225, when it is confirmed that the final step (the slow out step S503 in FIG. 19) in the massaging step S220 is confirmed (“YES” in step S225), the procedure proceeds to the head releasing step S227.

The interruption processing step S223 will be described below. In step S223, first, swinging and push-rotating of the left and right arms 114L and 114R, and knead-rotating of the contact groups L and R are stopped. At stopping of push-rotating, pushing force control is turned OFF, and the angular position at this time is held. After that, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are push-rotated to the limit in the release direction such that the contact groups L and R are separated from the head 10 to the maximum.

The head releasing step S227 will be described below. As in the interruption processing step S223, in step S227, first, swinging and push-rotating of the left and right arms 114L and 114R and knead-rotating of the contact groups L and R are stopped. At stopping of push-rotating, pushing force control is turned OFF, and the angular position at this time is held. After that, the left and right arms 114L and 114R are push-rotated to the limit in the release direction such that the contact groups L and R are separated from the head 10 to the maximum. Further, in the head release step S215, the left and right arms 114L and 114R having push-rotated in the release direction swing to the rear (the angular position of 0 degrees) of the head 10.

Thus, as in the below-mentioned head accepting step S218, since the left arm 114L and the right arm 114R are located at the bottom of the bowl 101 with a gap therebetween, the head 10 can be taken out of the bowl 101 without any difficulty.

When the head releasing step S227 is completed, the entire operation of the massage mode is finished.

In the above-mentioned massage mode, the swing angles and the pushing angles of the left and right arms 114L and 114R, and the knead-rotating angles of the contact groups L and R can be controlled in combination, massaging can be safely performed without putting any load on the person's neck.

The head accepting steps S206 and S218 in the washing mode and the massage mode will be described below in detail. As described above, the head accepting steps S206 and S218 are the most characteristic parts of the present invention.

FIG. 20 shows constituents of the system control section 708, which relates to the head accepting steps S206 and S218.

As shown in FIG. 20, the system control section 708 has a posture adjusting unit 708B, a head insertion preparing unit 708C, a head horizontal movement control unit 708D, a head insertion confirming unit 708E, a head insertion completion confirming unit 708F, a pseudo elasticity forming unit 708G, a simple scanning unit 708H, a head height adjustment control unit 708I, a head supporting control unit 708J, a vertical movement following control unit 708K, and a horizontal movement following control unit 708L. The configuration of the units 708B to 708L will be described in conjunction with the specific operation of the head accepting steps S206 and S218. In both of the washing mode and the massage mode, the head accepting steps S206 and S218 are operated in a similar manner and thus, the specific operation of the head accepting step S206 in the washing mode will be described.

FIG. 21 is a flow chart showing details of the head accepting step S206 in the washing mode.

As shown in FIG. 21, in the head accepting step S206, a posture adjusting step S301, a head insertion position adjusting step S302, a swing range determining step S305, and a head height adjusting step S306 are sequentially executed.

In the posture adjusting step S301, the posture adjusting unit 708B adjusts the height, front-and-back position, and reclining angle of the reclining seat 500 such that the person 8 seated on the reclining seat 500 can comfortably set the head 10 in the bowl 101. Specifically, in response to a command from the posture adjusting unit 708B, the reclining control section 709 controls the reclining device 508 to adjust the reclining angle of the reclining seat 500, and the height adjustment control section 710 controls the height adjusting device 510 to adjust the height of the reclining seat 500, and the horizontal movement control section 711 controls the horizontally moving device 530 to adjust the front-and-back position of the reclining seat 500. Based on an input signal from the operating section 707 for example, the posture adjusting unit 708B outputs a command value to the reclining control section 709, the height adjustment control section 710, and the horizontal movement control section 711. However, in the posture adjusting step S301, the reclining seat 500 may be manually controlled. In the case where the reclining seat 500 is manually adjusted in the posture adjusting step S301, when adjustment of the reclining seat 500 is completed, the person may be prompted to operate a predetermined button of the operating section 707. The prompt is video or voice.

Subsequently, the head insertion position adjusting step S302 will be described with reference to FIG. 28A and FIG. 28B. FIG. 28A and FIG. 28B are flow charts showing details of the head insertion position adjusting step S302.

In the head insertion position adjusting step S302, first, a head insertion preparing unit 708C performs a preparing operation for inserting the head 10 into the bowl 101 (steps S601 to step S617 in FIG. 28A and FIG. 28B). As shown in FIG. 22, in the preparing operation, the swing angles θSL and θSR of the left and right arms 114L and 114R are controlled to a horizontal position θH at which the arms 114L and 114R are arranged in the substantially horizontal direction, and the pushing angles θPL and θPR of the left and right arms 114L and 114R are controlled to a predetermined pushing position θZ. The pushing position θZ is set according to the size of the head 10. Specifically, first, in step S601, the head 10 is classified into three categories: S size, M size, and L size in increasing order of size. Then, in step S602, according to the size, a pushing limit angle θPlim is set to, for example, 12 degrees (S size), 10 degrees (M size), and 8 degrees (L size). The pushing limit angle θPlim thus set is set as a maximum angle at which the arms 114L and 114R of the automatic head washing apparatus 100 can push (care) the head 10 for each size of the head 10. The size of the head 10 is set, for example, by selecting the size with the operating section 707 or detecting the size with a camera.

Subsequently, in step S603, the arms 114L and 114R are rotated to the substantially horizontal positions by changing the swing angle θS of the left and right arms 114L and 114R, and the arms 114L and 114R are extended or contracted according to the size of the head by changing the extension angle θX. Then, to create pseudo elasticity, in step S604, pushing force control of the pressure sensors 211L and 211R is turned ON to set a first pressure P1 as a pushing force target value, and the pushing angle θZ of the arms 114L and 114R is controlled by the system control section 708 such that the pushing force detected by the pressure sensors 211L and 211R is the first pressure P1 or less. Through the steps S601 to S604, the preparing operation for insertion of the head is completed.

When the preparing operation for insertion of the head is completed, the head horizontal movement control unit 708D inserts the head 10 into the bowl 101. Specifically, according to a command from the head horizontal movement control unit 708D, the horizontal movement control section 711 controls the horizontally moving device 530 to move the reclining seat 500 and the person's head 10 on the sheet in the substantially horizontal direction so as to be inserted into or taken out from the bowl 101. The movement in the substantially horizontal direction adjusts the amount of insertion of the head 10 into the bowl 101. However, in this embodiment, the horizontally moving device 530 does not necessarily adjust the amount of insertion of the head 10 into the bowl 101, and the person 8 seated in the reclining seat 500 may move the head 10 to adjust the amount of insertion.

The preparing operation for insertion of the head may be performed for either of the left arm 114L or the right arm 114R (for example, arm 114L). In this case, in the other arm (for example, arm 114R) that does not perform the preparing operation for insertion of the head, the head supporting control unit 708J performs a head supporting operation for supporting the head 10. In the head supporting operation, the swing angle θSR of the other arm 114R is controlled to the angular position at which the arm 114R can support the head 10 from below. Thus, the arm 114R and the head support member 112 that are arranged below the head 10 can support the head 10 more stably. As shown in FIG. 24A, in the state where the head supporting operation of the head supporting control unit 708J is performed, when the head 10 horizontally moves in the forward and rearward direction for adjustment of the amount of insertion of the head into the bowl 101, the horizontal movement following control unit 708L controls swinging of the arm 114R subjected to the head supporting operation such that the plurality of contacts 109 are horizontally moves with horizontal movement of the head 10. Thereby, during horizontal movement of the head 10, horizontal movement of the contacts 109 of the arm 114R supporting the head 10 can be synchronized with horizontal movement of the head 10, suppressing discomfort of the person 8 seated in the reclining seat 500.

Subsequently, in step S605 to S615 as shown in FIG. 28A and FIG. 28B, for the arms 114L and 114R subjected to the preparing operation, the head insertion confirming unit 708E confirms whether or not the head 10 is properly inserted into the bowl 101. Specifically, first, in step S605, the system control section 708 determines whether or not values of the pushing force of the contacts 109 onto the head 10, which are detected by the pressure sensors 211L and 211R, are substantially equal to the first pressure P1. When the values of the pushing force detected by the pressure sensor 211L and the pressure sensor 211R are not substantially equal to the first pressure P1 (“NO” in step S605), in step S606, the system control section 708 determines whether or not the pushing angles θPL and θPR are substantially equal to the pushing limit angle θPlim. When the pushing angles are not substantially equal to the pushing limit angle (“NO” in step S606), the procedure returns to step S605, and when the pushing angles are substantially equal to the pushing limit angle (“YES” in step S606), the procedure proceeds to step S607. In step S607, based on the determination result of step S606, it is determined that the pushing force of the arms 114L and 114R is insufficient, that is, insertion of the head 10 into the bowl 101 is insufficient, a guide message “Move head into the back for deeper insertion” is outputted in video or voice, and the procedure returns to step S605.

Subsequently, when the value detected by the pressure sensor 211L and the pressure sensor 211R is substantially equal to the first pressure P1 in step S605 (“YES” in step S605), in step S608, displacement of the head 10 in a right and left direction is checked. In step S608, the system control section 708 determines whether or not the value of the pressure sensor 211L is substantially equal to the value of the pressure sensor 211R and whether or not the pushing angle θPL is substantially equal to the pushing angle θPR. When it is determined that either the values of the pressure sensors or the pushing angles are not substantially equal to each other in step S608 (“NO” in step S608), in step S609, it is determined whether the head 10 is displaced to the left or the right. In step S609, the system control section 708 determines which of the pushing angles θPL and θPR is larger, and when the pushing angle θPL is larger (“θPL” in step S609), it is determined that the head 10 is displaced to the right, and in step S610, a guide message “Move head to the left” is outputted in video or voice. When it is determined that the pushing angle θPR is larger in step S609 (“θPR” in step S609), it is determined that the head 10 is displaced to the left, and in step S611, a guide message “Move head to the right” is outputted in video or voice. Then, the guide message is outputted in step S610 or S611 and then, the procedure returns to step S605.

Subsequently, when it is determined that both the values of the pressure sensors and the pushing angles are substantially equal to each other in step S608 (“YES” in step S608), in step S612, the system control section 708 determines whether or not the pushing angles θPL and θPR fall within the range from pushing limit angle θPlim−1 degrees to pushing limit angle θPlim ((θPlim−1 degrees)<θPPlim). When it is determined that the pushing angles θPL and θPR do not fall within the range in step S612 (“NO” in step S612), it is determined that the head 10 is inserted into the bowl 101 too much, and a guide message “Move head toward legs for shallower insertion” outputted in video or voice and then, the procedure returns to step S605.

When it is determined that the pushing angles fall within the range in step S612 (“YES” in step S612), it is determined that insertion of the head into the bowl 101 is adjusted, and in step S614, a guide message “Head is properly inserted” is outputted in video or voice, and accordingly, it is confirmed that the head 10 is properly inserted into the bowl 101. In the case where the preparing operation for both of the left and right arms 114L and 114R is performed, in both the left and right pressure sensors 211L and 211R, when the pushing force of the first pressure P1 is detected, it is determined that the head 10 is properly inserted into the bowl 101. Thus, the insertion of the head 10 can be easily confirmed by using the pressure sensors 211L and 211R without using any complicated detector for detecting the position of the head 10.

After that, pushing force control is turned OFF in step S615, and the arms are released in step S616 (the arms 114L and 114R are rotated at the position of the pushing angles θPL and θPR of 0 degrees). Then, to move the arms 114L and 114R to initial positions, in step S617, the arms 114L and 114R are rotated to the positions of the extension angle θX of 0 degrees, and the arms 114L and 114R are rotated to the positions of the swing angles θSL and θSR of 0 degrees.

The guide message outputted at each of the above-mentioned steps is for requesting the person receiving the guide message to adjust the position of the head 10. In the case where the position of the head 10 is automatically adjusted by automatically moving the reclining seat 500 in the horizontal direction by the horizontally moving device 520, adjustment is made based on the values of the pressure sensors 211L and 211R in place of the guide messages.

In the steps S604 to S614 in this embodiment, for the arms 114L and 114R subjected to the preparing operation, the pushing force of the first pressure P1 or more is detected by the pressure sensors 211L and 211R, the pseudo elasticity forming unit 708G performs an elasticity forming operation of imparting pseudo elasticity to the arms 114L and 114R. In the elasticity forming operation, push-rotating of the arms 114L and 114R is controlled such that the pushing force of the contacts 109 onto the head 10 is kept at the first pressure P1 while inhibiting push-rotating toward the head 10 beyond the pushing position θZ. Through this control, the arms 114L and 114R subjected to the preparing operation function just like elastic walls, preventing an excessive load on the head 10. Therefore, the person's head 10 can be set at a proper position in the bowl 101 safely and reliably. In various operations including the elasticity forming operation, as described above, push-rotating of the arms 114L and 114R is controlled by the arm pushing angle control sections 702L and 702R. In various operations, swinging of the arms 114L and 114R is controlled by the arm swing angle control sections 701L and 701R as described above. FIG. 23 is a block diagram showing the configuration of the left arm swing angle control section 701L and the left arm pushing angle control section 702L. The right arm swing angle control section 701R has the same configuration as the left arm swing angle control section 701L, and the right arm pushing angle control section 702R has the same configuration as the left arm pushing angle control section 702L, detailed description thereof are omitted. The left arm swing angle control section 701L has a comparator 602L and a position controller 603L. The left arm pushing angle control section 702L has comparators 802L and 805L, a stabilizing compensator 803L, a limiter 804L, and a position controller 806L. As shown in FIG. 23, the motor 206L for push-rotating includes an encoder 801L for synchronizing with the rotational angle of the motor 206L to generate a pulse signal. The pulse signal generated by the encoder 801L that is information indicating the rotational angle (pushing angle θPL) of the motor 206L is sent to the comparator 805L. The comparator 802L compares the pushing force commanded by the system control section 708, that is, the first pressure P1 with the pressure detected by the pressure sensor 211L to calculate an error. An error signal is sent to the comparator 805L through the stabilizing compensator 803L and the limiter 804L. The stabilizing compensator 803L serves to stabilize the control system. The limiter 804L serves to limit the pushing force of the contacts 109 onto the head 10 to the first pressure P1 or less in the elasticity forming operation. The comparator 805L compares the signal of the command value from the limiter 804L with the signal of the current pushing angle θPL from the encoder 801L to calculate an error, and an error signal is sent to the motor 206L through the position controller 806L for controlling the pushing angle of the arm 114L. When the limiter 804L operates, the command value sent to the comparator 805L is limited to the first pressure P1 or less and thus, the elasticity forming operation can be performed. Meanwhile, the motor 201L for swinging includes an encoder 601L for synchronizing with the rotational angle of the motor 201L to generate the pulse signal. The pulse signal generated by the encoder 601L that is information indicating the rotational angle (swing angle θSL) of the motor 201L is sent to the comparator 602L. The comparator 602L compares the swing angle θSL commanded by the system control section 708 with the current swing angle θSL from the encoder 601L to calculate an error signal. The error signal is sent to the motor 201L through the position controller 603L for controlling the swing angle of the arm 114L. In response to the error signal, the arm 114L can swing according to the command value of the system control section 708.

Subsequently, in the swing range determining step S305 in FIG. 21, the range of the swing angles θSL and θSR of the arms 114L and 114R is determined. Referring to FIG. 25, the case of the left arm 114L will be described. As shown in FIG. 25, in the swing range determining step S305, the range of the swing angle θSL is determined by determining an origin (θSL=0 degrees), a horizontal position θH, and an upper limit point θSMAX. These angular positions are determined by, for example, allowing the person to manually move the arm 114L and stop the arm 114L at desired positions concerning the angular positions, thereby determining the positions with the operating section 707.

Subsequently, in the head height adjusting step S306 in FIG. 21, after the simple scanning unit 708H performs a simple scanning operation, the head height adjustment control unit 708I adjusts the height of the head (steps S701 to S722 in FIG. 29A and FIG. 29B). The simple scanning operation is a simpler version of the above-mentioned scanning operation, in which at the three angular positions of the swing angles θSL and θSR, the pushing angles θPL and θPR at which the pushing forces detected by the pressure sensors 211L and 211R become the first pressure P1 are detected and stored in the storage unit 708A.

Concerning the three angular positions for simple scanning, it is given that i is 1 in the case of forehead position, i is 2 in the case of horizontal position, and i is 3 in the case of origin position. Further, it is given that the swing angle at each angular position is θSi, the pushing angle at angular position is θPi, and the extension angle at each angular position is θXi. First, in step S701, i is defined as 1. Next, in step S702, the arms are rotated by an angle of the extension angle θX according to the size of the head 10 to extend or contract the arms 114L and 114R. Next, in step S703, the swing angle θS is rotated to the swing angle θSi at each angular position. Subsequently, in step S704, pushing force control is turned ON, and the first pressure P1 as a target value of pushing force is set. Next, in step S705, the system control section 708 determines whether or not the pressures detected by the pressure sensors 211L and 211R are substantially equal to the first pressure P1. When it is determined that the pressures are not substantially equal to the first pressure P1 in step S705 (“NO” in step S705), step S705 is repeated until the pressures become substantially equal to the first pressure P1.

When it is determined that the pressures are substantially equal to the first pressure P1 in step S705 (“YES” in step S705), the extension angle θX of the arms 114L and 114R is increased while keeping the first pressure P1 to extend the arms 114L and 114R. Then, in step S707, the magnet 121 and the magnetic sensor 122 as examples of the arm closeness detector detect whether or not the arm 114L and the arm 114R are close to each other to have a predetermined distance therebetween. When the two arms 114L and 114R are not close to each other to have the predetermined distance therebetween (“NO” in step S707), the procedure returns to step S706, and the arms are made close to each other to have the predetermined distance therebetween. When the two arms 114L and 114R are close to each other to have the predetermined distance therebetween (“YES” in step S707), in step S708, the extending operation of the arms 114L and 114R is stopped, and the extension angle θXi at this time is kept. Subsequently, in step S709, the pushing angle θPi and the extension angle θXi that correspond to the current swing angle θSi are acquired. Subsequently, in step S710, pushing force control is turned OFF, and in step S711, the arms 114L and 114R are released (the pushing angle θP is rotated to 0 degrees) and rotated such that the extension angle θX becomes an initial value corresponding to the size of the head. These steps S703 to S711 are repeated through step S712 and step S713 until i becomes 3.

Next, in step S714, the pushing angle θP1 of i=1 at the forehead position is compared with the pushing angle θP3 of i=3 at the origin position. When the pushing angle θPL1 at the forehead position is not substantially equal to the pushing angle θPL3 at the origin position, or the pushing angle θPR1 at the forehead position is not substantially equal to the pushing angle θPR3 at the origin position (“NO” in step S714), step S715 is executed. In step S715, it is determined which of the pushing angle θPL1 at the forehead position and the pushing angle θPL3 is larger and which of the pushing angle θPR1 and the pushing angle θPR3 at the origin position is larger. When the pushing angles θPL1 and θPR1 at the forehead position are smaller than the pushing angles θPL3 and θPR3 at the origin position, respectively (“YES” in step S715), it is determined that the head 10 is displaced toward the forehead side, and in step S716, a guide message “Lower head” is outputted in video or voice. Then, after it is determined whether or not the height of the head is adjusted in step S717, the procedure returns to step S701. When the pushing angles θPL1 and θPR1 at the forehead position are larger than the pushing angles θPL3 and θPR3 at the origin position, respectively (“NO” in step S715), it is determined that the head 10 is displaced toward the origin side (occipital region side) and in step S718, a guide message “Raise head” is outputted in video or voice. Then, after it is determined whether or not the height of the head is adjusted in step S719 the procedure returns to step S701.

When the pushing angle θPL1 at the forehead position is substantially equal to the pushing angle θPL3 at the origin position, and the pushing angle θPR1 at the forehead position is substantially equal to the pushing angle θPR3 of the origin position (“YES” in step S714), step S720 is executed. In step S720, the extension angle θX1 of i=1 at the forehead position is compared with the extension angle θX3 of i=3 at the origin position. When the extension angle θSL1 at the forehead position is not substantially equal to the extension angle θXL3 at the origin position, or the extension angle θXR1 at the forehead position is not substantially equal to the extension angle θXR3of the origin position (“NO” in step S720), step S721 is executed. In step S721, it is determined which of the extension angle θXL1 at the forehead position and the extension angle θXL3 at the origin position is larger, and which of the extension angle θXR1 at the forehead position and the extension angle θXR3 at the origin position is larger. When the extension angles θXL1 and θXR1 at the forehead position are larger than the extension angles θXL3 and θXR3 at the origin position, respectively (the arms 114L and 114R at the forehead position are not extended or contracted from the arms 114L and 114R at the origin position, “YES” in step S721), it is determined that the head 10 is displaced toward the forehead and in step S716, a guide message “Lower head” is outputted in video or voice. Then, after it is determined whether or not the height of the head is adjusted in step S717, the procedure returns to step S701. When the extension angles θPL1 and θPR1 at the forehead position are smaller than the extension angles θPL3 and θPR3 at the origin position, respectively (“NO” in step S721), it is determined that the head 10 is displaced toward the origin side (occipital region side) and in step S718, a guide message “Raise head” is outputted in video or voice. Then, after it is determined whether or not the height of the head is adjusted in step S719, the procedure returns to step S701.

When the extension angle θSL1 at the forehead position is substantially equal to the extension angle θXL3 at the origin position, and the extension angle θXR1 at the forehead position is substantially equal to the extension angle θXR3 at the origin position (“YES” in step S720), step S722 is executed. In step S722, it is determined that the height of the head 10 is adjusted, a guide message “Height of head is properly adjusted” is outputted in video or voice. In this manner, the head height adjusting step S306 in FIG. 21 is executed.

Following step S722 in FIG. 29B, as necessary, the pushing angle θP2 and the extension angle θX2 at the horizontal position in the case of the swing angle θS2 may be estimated to readjust the insertion position of the head. By adjusting the insertion position and the height of the head 10 and then, making adjustment concerning the horizontal position, discomfort of the person 8 seated on the reclining seat 500 can be suppressed.

Subsequently, referring to FIG. 26, a specific example of the simple scanning operation for the left arm 114L will be described. As shown in FIG. 26, in simple scanning operation, as for the swing angle θSL, scanning is made at three positions: the horizontal position θH, an angle θU1 upper than the horizontal position θH, and an angle θL lower than the horizontal position θH. The scanning is performed similarly as in the above-mentioned scanning operation and thus, detailed description is omitted.

The upper angle θU1 is set to, for example, the upper limit point θSMAX determined in the swing range determining step S305. Preferably, the lower angle θL1 is set such that a difference θL H−θL1) between the lower angle θL1 and the horizontal position θH is equal to a difference θU U1−θH) between the upper angle θU1 and the horizontal position θH. Thereby, the height of the head 10 can be accurately adjusted in the next head height adjusting step S306.

However, in the simple scanning operation, the upper angle θU1 and the lower angle θL1 may be set to angles other than the above-mentioned angles. For example, the lower angle θL may be set to the origin (θSL=0 degrees). The simple scanning operation is not necessary performed using the swing angles θSL and θSR at three positions, and may be performed using the swing angles θSL and θSR at two positions, for example.

Returning to FIG. 21, in the head height adjusting step S306, as described with reference to FIG. 29A and FIG. 29B, the head height adjustment control unit 708I adjusts the height of the head 10. In this case, the height of the head 10 is adjusted such that a displacement in the pushing angles θPL and θPR detected and stored in the simple scanning operation according to the swing angles θSL and θSR is reduced. For example, in the simple scanning operation, when the pushing angles θPL and θPR at the lower angle θL1 are larger than the pushing angles θPL and θPR at the upper angle θU1, the head 10 is adjusted to be lowered. When the pushing angles θPL and θPR at the lower angle θL1 are smaller than the pushing angles θPL and θPR at the upper angle θU1, the head 10 is adjusted to be raised. Thereby, the head 10 is set at the optimum position also in the height direction.

Specifically, to adjust the height of the head 10, the height adjustment control section 710 controls the height adjusting device 510 to adjust the height of the reclining seat 500. When the height adjusting device 510 is not used, the adjustment of the height of the reclining seat 500 may be prompted to be manually performed in video or voice.

As shown in FIG. 24B, in adjusting the height of the head 10, the head supporting control unit 708J may perform the head supporting operation with at least one of left and right arms 114L and 114R. As a result, the arms 114L and 114R and the head support member 112 that are arranged below the head 10 can support the head 10 more stably.

In this case, the vertical movement following control unit 708K may control push-rotating such that the plurality of contacts 109 of the arms 114L and 114R subjected to the head supporting operation vertically move along with a vertical movement of the head 10. As a result, during adjustment of the height of the head 10, a load on the neck due to a change in the position of the head 10 can be reduced, reducing discomfort for the user.

The specific configuration of the automatic head washing apparatus 100 will be described below with reference to FIG. 5 to FIG. 13.

FIG. 5 is a diagram showing the third arms 107L and 108L of the left washing unit 12L when viewed from the surface of the head 10 in the direction 215L of a normal in FIG. 4. In FIG. 5, to illustrate the drive transmitting system, arrangement of the arm base 103L, the first arm 105L, and the second arm 106L are schematically shown.

As shown in FIG. 5, a motor 301L is arranged in the second arm 106L. A rotation output of the motor 301L is transmitted to a drive shaft 304L through a gear 302L attached to a motor rotation output shaft and a gear 303L attached to a drive shaft 304. The drive shaft 304L is rotatably driven by the rotation output transmitted from the motor 301L.

A rotation output of a gear 305L attached to one end of the drive shaft 304L is transmitted to a gear 307L and a gear 311L attached to the third arm 107L through a cylindrical rack 306L. The cylindrical rack 306L is rotatably supported by the second arm 106L through the support shaft 213L, and is held to be movable in parallel to the support shaft 213L. The cylindrical rack 306L moves parallel to the support shaft 213L, thereby causing the gear 307L to rotate about a rotation shaft 308L and the gear 311L to rotate about a rotation shaft 312L.

The cylindrical rack 306L is substantially cylindrical as a whole, and has an axisymmetric rack mechanism 306La on its side surface. The rack mechanism 306La engages with the gear 305L attached to the drive shaft 304L, and also engages with the gear 307L and the gear 311L.

A fourth arm 309L for coupling the two contacts 109 to each other is connected to the gear 307L. The two contacts 109 are rotated integrally with the gear 307L. Similarly, a fourth arm 310L for coupling the two contacts 109 to each other is connected to the gear 311L. The two contacts 109 are rotated integrally with the gear 311L. The fourth arms 309L and 310L are examples of a kneading arm.

A rotation output of a gear 313L attached to the other end of the drive shaft 304L is transmitted to a gear 315L and a gear 318L that are attached to the third arm 108L through a cylindrical rack 314L. The cylindrical rack 314L is substantially cylindrical as a whole, and has an axisymmetric rack mechanism 314La on its side surface. The cylindrical rack 314L is rotatably supported by the second arm 106L through the support shaft 214L, and is held to be movable parallel to the support shaft 214L. The cylindrical rack 314L moves parallel to the support shaft 214L, causing the gear 315L to rotate about a rotation shaft 316L and the gear 318L to rotate about a rotation shaft 319L.

A fourth arm 317L for coupling the two contacts 109 to each other is connected to the gear 315L. The two contacts 109 move about the rotation shaft 316L integrally with the gear 315L. Similarly, a fourth arm 320L for coupling the two contacts 109 to each other is connected to the gear 318L. The two contacts 109 move about the rotation shaft 319L integrally with the gear 318L. The fourth arms 317L and 320L are examples of the kneading arm.

FIG. 6A and FIG. 6B are views illustrating the operation of a third part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. FIG. 6A schematically shows the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L, the gears 307L, 311L, 315L, and 318L, the fourth arms 309L, 310L, 317L, and 320L, and the contacts 109. FIG. 6B shows the fourth arms 309L, 310L, 317L, and 320L and the contacts 109, and does not show the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L and the gears 307L, 311L, 315L, and 318L. In FIG. 6A and FIG. 6B, the second arm 106L and the third arms 107L and 108L are schematically shown as a bar 27 in a unit.

As shown in FIG. 6A, in the left washing unit 12L, when the cylindrical rack 306L moves in the direction of an arrow 27a, the adjacent gears 307L and 311L located on both sides of the cylindrical rack 306L rotate in the directions of arrows 27b and 27c, respectively. In this connection, the contacts 109 attached to the gear 307L and the contacts 109 attached to the gears 311L through the fourth arms 309L and 310L, respectively, move in opposite directions of the arrows 27d and 27e.

Similarly, when the cylindrical rack 314L moves in the direction of the arrow 27a, the adjacent gears 315L and 318L on both sides of the cylindrical rack 314L rotate in the directions of the arrows 27b and 27c, respectively. In this connection, the contacts 109 attached to the gear 315L and the contacts 109 attached to the gear 318L through the fourth arms 317L and 320L, respectively, move in opposite directions of arrows 27d and 27e.

When the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L move in the direction of the arrow 27a, the adjacent gears 307L and 318L attached to the different adjacent third arms 107L and 108L (see FIG. 5), respectively, rotate in opposite directions. As a result, the contacts 109 attached to the gear 307L and the contacts 109 attached to the gear 318L through the fourth arms 309L and 320L, respectively, move in opposite directions of the arrows 27d and 27e. As described above, when the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L move in the direction of the arrow 27a, the two contacts 109 adjacent to each other in the direction orthogonal to the axial direction of the cylindrical racks 306L or 314L move to get close to or away from each other in the directions of the arrows 27d and 27e.

When the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L move in the direction of the arrow 27a after the contacts 109 make contact with scalp of the person's head 10, scalp areas in contact with the contacts 109 get close to (or away from) each other. This can contract (or extend) the scalp of the person's head 10, thereby kneading the scalp of the person's head 10.

When the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L move in the direction of the arrow 27a in the state where the contacts 109 are in contact with hair on the person's head 10, hair between the contacts 109 can be pinched (or pulled). This can displace and move bunches constituting hair in various directions, thereby kneading the bunches.

When the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L move in the opposite direction to the direction of the arrow 27a, as shown in FIG. 6B, the gears 307L, 311L, 315L, and 318L and the contacts 109 move in the opposite direction to the operating direction shown in FIG. 6A. In the left washing unit 12L, the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L are reciprocated in the direction of the arrow 27a and the opposite direction to the direction of the arrow 27a to alternate a state A in FIG. 6A and a state B in FIG. 6B and oscillate the contacts 109. As a result, as described above, the operation of kneading the head 10 with the plurality of contacts 109, that is, the kneading operation is achieved.

The right washing unit 12R and the left washing unit 12L have the same configuration except that they are symmetric.

That is, as shown in FIG. 2 to FIG. 4, the right washing unit 12R includes the right arm 114R and the pipe 111R. The right arm 114R has an arm housing 115R. The arm housing 115R accommodates first to third arms 105R, 106R, 107R, and 108R. The pipe 111R has the same configuration as the pipe 111L, and is attached to an arm base 103R fixed to the support shaft 104R. The first arm 105R is attached to the arm base 103R, and can rotate about the support shaft 104R together with the arm base 103R. The first arm 105R rotatably supports the second arm 106R. The second arm 106R rotatably supports the two third arms 107R and 108R. The plurality of contacts 109 that make contact with the person's head 10 are attached to the third arms 107R and 108R. The contacts 109 are exposed from the arm housing 115R.

A rotation output of a motor 201R arranged in the support column 102R is transmitted to the support shaft 104R through a gear 203R attached to a motor rotation output shaft 202R and a gear 204R attached to the support shaft 104R. The arm base 103R attached to the support shaft 104R can be rotatably driven in the direction of an arrow 205R. An arm rotation shaft 209R arranged in the arm base 103R is provided substantially perpendicular to the support shaft 104R, and can rotate about the support shaft 104R together with the arm base 103R and the arms 105R, 106R, 107R, and 108R. A rotation output of the motor 206R is transmitted to the first arm 105R through a gear 207R attached to a motor rotation output shaft 207Ra and a gear 208R attached to the arm rotation shaft 209R of the first arm 105R. The first arm 105R can be driven by the rotation output transmitted from the motor 206L to be rotatable about the arm rotation shaft 209R in the direction of an arrow 210R. The first arm 105R includes the pressure sensor 211R for detecting a force to push the person's head 10, and rotatably supports the second arm 106R through a support shaft 212R. The second arm 106R rotatably supports the third arms 107R and 108R through support shafts 213R and 214R, respectively. A gear that engages with the cylindrical rack is attached to each of the third arms 107R and 108R. The cylindrical rack is rotatably supported by the second arm 106R through the support shafts 213R and 214R, and is held to be movable parallel to the support shafts 213R and 214R. The gear is connected to the fourth arm for coupling the two contacts 109 to each other. The two contacts 109 are rotated by a motor 301R (see FIG. 14) arranged in the second arm 106R integrally with the gear.

Next, a specific example of the second part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus 100 will be described.

FIG. 7 is a side view showing the specific example of the second part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. FIG. 8 is a perspective view showing the specific example of the second part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. FIG. 7 and FIG. 8 show specific examples of a head care unit 40 configured of the second arm and the third arms. FIG. 7 and FIG. 8 show the substantially linear second arm and third arms, and the fan-like gears attached to the third arm.

As shown in FIG. 7 and FIG. 8, the head care unit 40 of the automatic head washing apparatus 100 is configured of the second arm 106L and the third arms 107L and 108L. The head care unit 40 includes the drive shaft 304L for transmitting the output from the motor 301L arranged in the second arm 106L, the two cylindrical racks 306L and 314L engaged with the gears 305L and 313L arranged on the both ends of the drive shaft 304L, respectively, and the third arms 107L and 108L rotatably held through the support shafts 213L and 214L that correspond to central axes 306Lb and 314Lb of the two cylindrical racks 306L and 314L, respectively.

In the head care unit 40, the rotation output of the motor 301L is transmitted to the gears 307L, 311L, 315L, and 318L attached to the third arms 107L and 108L through the gears 305L and 313L arranged on the both ends of the drive shaft 304L and the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L. The gears 307L, 311L, 315L, and 318L are rotated by the rotation output transmitted from the motor 301L, thereby causing the two contacts 109 attached to each of the gears 307L, 311L, 315L, and 318L to rotate.

The two cylindrical racks 306L and 314L are rotatably supported by the second arm 106L through the support shafts 213L and 214L, respectively. The gear 307L that engages with the cylindrical rack 306L is connected to the rotation shaft 308L rotatably held by the third arm 107L. The rotation shaft 308L is connected to the fourth arm 309L for coupling the two contacts 109 to each other. Thus, the gear 307L and the contacts 109 can integrally rotate about the rotation shaft 308L. The rotation shaft 308L is designed to maintain the engagement state between the cylindrical rack 306L and the gear 307L, for example, by including flanges in top and bottom portions across the third arm 107L.

Like the gear 307L, the gears 311L, 315L, and 318L rotate about the rotation shafts 312L, 316L, 319L, respectively, integrally with the contacts 109. In the head care unit 40, a contact unit 13 that makes contact with the person's head 10 is configured of the gear 307L attached to the third arm 107L, the rotation shaft 308L, the fourth arm 309L, and the contacts 109. The contact unit 13 has the gear 307L having a central axis about which the two contacts 109 at the distal ends of the third arm 108L are rotated.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view showing the schematic configuration of the contact unit 13 of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. In FIG. 9, the gear 307L attached to the third arm 107L is circular. As shown in FIG. 9, in the contact unit 13, the two contacts 109 that make contact with the person's head 10 are attached to distal end of the substantially V-like fourth arm 309L. In the contact unit 13, the rotation shaft 308L connected to the gear 307L corresponds to an axis of symmetry 309La of the fourth arm 309L.

As described above, in the contact unit 13, the gear 307L and the contacts 109 integrally rotate about the rotation shaft 308L. In the contact unit 13, the two contacts 109 rotate about the rotation shaft 308L. However, in the contact unit 13, the two contacts 109 can also move along a line connecting the two contacts 109 to each other, or in a direction orthogonal to the line.

The fourth arm 309L has a pair of branches 309Lb and a connecting portion 309Lc. The connecting portion 309Lc is connected to the rotation shaft 308L. The pair of branches 309Lb have the contacts 109 at their distal ends, and are arranged symmetrically about the axis of symmetry 309La. The connecting portion 309Lc couples the two branches 309Lb to each other at a the top of the two branches 309Lb arranged in a V-like manner.

In the contact unit 13, the fourth arm 309L contains an elastic body in at least a part of the area ranging from the top of the V-like branches 309Lb to the contacts 109. In the fourth arm 309L of the contact unit 13 in FIG. 9, the branches 309Lb each are configured as a plate spring as an example of the elastic body.

In the contact unit 13, as the pushing force of the contact unit 13 onto the person's head 10 with the two contacts 109 being in contact with the person's head 10 increases, a distance between the top of the V-like two branches 309Lb of the contact unit 13 and the person's head 10 decreases, and a distance between the two contacts 109 increases. Conversely, as the pushing force of the contact unit 13 onto the person's head 10 with the two contacts 109 being in contact with the person's head 10 decreases, the distance between the top of the V-like two branches 309Lb of the contact unit 13 and the person's head 10 increases, and the distance between the two contacts 109 decreases.

When the pushing force of the contact unit 13 onto the person's head 10 with the two contacts 109 being in contact with the person's head 10 changes in this manner, the distance between the top of the V-like two branches 309Lb of the contact unit 13 and the person's head 10 changes, and the distance between the two contacts 109 also changes. That is, by changing the pushing force of the contact unit 13 onto the person's head 10, the distance between the two contacts 109 of the contact unit 13 can be adjusted. Therefore, the automatic head washing apparatus 100 can wash the person's head 10 efficiently and reliably according to the shape of the head.

When the contact unit 13 moves along the person's head 10, the contacts 109 of the contact unit 13 moves along the surface of a scalp 10a of the person's head 10 smoothly and efficiently. The contacts 109 move along the scalp 10a, generating a shear stress on the scalp 10a, and are pushed onto the scalp 10a, generating a vertical stress on the scalp 10a. The automatic head washing apparatus 100 washes the person's head 10 according to the shape of the head while changing the position of the contacts 109, so that the person's head 10 can be washed without any unwashed spot uniformly and efficiently.

In the contact unit 13, while the contacts 109 are pushed onto the person's head 10, the axis of symmetry 309La of the fourth arm 309L to which the contacts 109 are attached is oriented to the center of the person's head 10, and is located in the substantially same direction as the normal vertical to the tangent formed by the contacts 109 in contact with the person's head 10.

As described above, the contacts 109 are pushed toward the center of the person's head 10 due to the elastic force of the branches 309Lb as plate springs and thus, accurately move along the surface of the person's head 10. This can wash the person's head 10 smoothly and efficiently.

The contact unit 13 may be provided with an opening angle adjusting mechanism adjusting the opening angle between the pair of V-like branches 309Lb, and the opening angle adjusting mechanism may elastically keep the opening angle between the pair of branches 309Lb to a predetermined angle range. The opening angle adjusting mechanism is preferably configured such that the opening angle between the pair of branches 309Lb is in the range of 60 to 150 degrees.

In the head care unit 40 including the contact units 13 thus configured, the two contact units 13 are rotatably held by the third arms 107L and 108L, respectively, and the third arms 107L and 108L are rotatably held by the second arm 106L through the support shafts 213L and 214L, respectively.

The second arm 106L is rotatably supported by the first arm 105L through the support shaft 212L. The first arm 105L rotates toward the person's head 10 to move the second arm 106L toward the person's head 10, and to bring the contacts 109 attached to the third arms 107L and 108L into contact with the person's head 10.

FIG. 10A and FIG. 10B are views illustrating the operation of a fourth part of the driving mechanism of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. FIG. 10A and FIG. 10B show the state where the contacts 109 of the two contact units 13 make contact with the scalp 10a of the person's head 10. FIG. 10A and FIG. 10B show the two contact units 13, the third arm 107L to which the two contact units 13 are attached, and one split unit 14. The one split unit 14 includes the cylindrical rack 306L supported by the third arm 107L and the second arm 106L. FIG. 10A and FIG. 10B also show the gear 305 that engages with the cylindrical rack 306L.

As shown in FIG. 10A, when the second arm 106L moves toward the person's head 10, the third arm 107L moves toward the person's head 10, and one contact unit 13 attached to the third arm 107L is pushed onto the scalp 10a of the person's head 10. The movement of the second arm 106L toward the person's head 10 is caused by the movement of the first arm 105L toward the person's head 10, and the movement of the first arm 105L is made by controlling the operation of the motor 206L.

When one contact unit 13 attached to the third arm 107L is pushed onto the scalp 10a of the person's head 10, the two contacts 109 are separated from each other in the direction orthogonal to the pushing direction. FIG. 10A and FIG. 10B show the two contacts 109 in the overlapping state.

When the second arm 106L further moves toward the person's head 10 to increase the pushing force of the contact unit 13 onto the person's head 10, as shown in FIG. 10B, the third arm 107L is inclined, thereby causing the other contact unit 13 attached to the third arm 107L to push the person's head 10. Even when the third arm 107L is inclined, engagement between the cylindrical rack 306L and the gears 307L and 311L is maintained.

In the automatic head washing apparatus 100, the pushing force of the contact unit 13 onto the person's head 10 can be changed by controlling the operation of the motor 206L (see FIG. 4). The motor 206L functions as a pushing actuator for changing the pushing force. The operation of the motor 206L can be adjusted based on the force to push the person's head 10, which is detected by the pressure sensors 211L and 211R, so as to apply a predetermined pressure to the person's head 10. Thereby, hair can be washed by applying the optimum contact pressure to each part of the person's head 10 while keeping the optimum position at which the plurality of contacts 109 push the head 10.

The plurality of contacts 109 may be provided with a pressure sensor for detecting contact with the person's head 10, and the operation of the motor 206L may be controlled according to a detection signal from the pressure sensor. The split unit 14 (for example, the third arms 107L and 108L of the split unit 14) may be provided with a distance sensor for detecting the distance between the split unit and the person's head 10, and the operation of the motor 206L may be controlled according to a detection signal from the distance sensor.

In the head care unit 40, the third arms 107L and 108L are rotatably supported by the second arm 106L through the support shafts 213L and 214L, respectively, and the two split units 14 provided at the washing unit 12L in the longitudinal direction are rotatably supported by the second arm 106L. As described above, the second arm 106L is rotatably supported by the first arm 105L through the support shaft 212L.

In the head care unit 40, when the second arm 106L moves toward the person's head 10, the third arm 107L moves toward the person's head 10, and one split unit 14 attached to the second arm 106L is pushed onto the scalp 10a of the person's head 10. When the second arm 106L further moves toward the person's head 10, the other split unit 14 attached to the second arm 106L is pushed onto the scalp 10a of the person's head 10, and the contacts 109 provided at the two split units 14 as opposed to the head support 11 make contact with the scalp 10a of the person's head 10.

As described above, the head care unit 40 in this embodiment includes the contact units 13, the third arms 107L and 108L for rotatably holding the contact units 13, the support shafts 213L and 214L for rotatably holding the third arms 107L and 108L, the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L, and the motor 301L for oscillating the plurality of contacts 109. The third arms 107L and 108L are examples of a tilt stage. The gears 307L, 311L, 315L, and 318L are examples of a rotational gear. The support shafts 213L and 214L are examples of a tilt stage rotation shaft. The motor 301L is an example of an oscillating actuator. The contact units 13 include the plurality of contacts 109 at their distal ends, and the gears 307L, 311L, 315L, and 318L having their central axes about which the plurality of contacts 109 are rotated. The cylindrical racks 306L and 314L are held to be movable parallel to the support shafts 213L and 214L, and when moved in the direction, the gears 307L, 311L, 315L, and 318L of the contact units 13 are caused to rotate. The motor 301L causes the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L to move parallel to the support shafts 213L and 214L, thereby causing the gears 307L, 311L, 315L, and 318L to rotate to oscillate the plurality of contacts 109.

The head care unit 40 includes a pushing mechanism for moving the support shafts 213L and 214L toward the person's head 10. The pushing mechanism moves the support shafts 213L and 214L to the person's head 10, and the motor 301L oscillates the plurality of contacts 109, thereby applying stress onto the person's head 10 with the plurality of contacts 109. The pushing mechanism is configured of the motor 206L, the gears 207L and 208L, the first arm 105L, and the second arm 106L.

Thus, even when the shape of the person's head 10 varies, scalp and hair of the person's head 10 can be washed efficiently and reliably according to the shape of the person's head 10. This can reduce the amount of used water and shampoo, as well as the amount of dirty water.

Although the head care unit 40 in this embodiment includes the two third arms for rotatably holding the contact units 13, the present invention is not limited to this, and three or more third arms may be provided. As described above, the head care unit 40 has the plurality of third arms, enabling more wide and efficient washing of the person's head 10.

In the head care unit 40, since the contact units 13 are horizontally arranged on both sides of the cylindrical racks 306L and 314L, the thickness of the head care unit 40 can be reduced. This can made the head care unit 40 compact.

In the automatic head washing apparatus 100, the washing unit 12 can operate according to the shape of the person's head 10 to wash the head. Therefore, the automatic head washing apparatus 100 can efficiently wash the person's head 10, and can reduce the amount of used water and shampoo as well as the amount of dirty water.

The water system supplying unit and the water system valve 216 constitute a water supplying unit for supplying water to the washing units 12L and 12R. A washing liquid supplying unit for supplying washing liquid to the washing units 12L and 12R is configured of the washing liquid supplying unit 222, the mixing unit 220, and the washing liquid system valve 217. A conditioner supplying unit for supplying conditioner to the washing units 12L and 12R is configured of the conditioner supplying unit 221 and the conditioner system valve 218.

As shown in FIG. 3, in the automatic head washing apparatus 100, two drain outlets 101b are provided on a bottom 101a of the bowl 101 to discharge washing water and so on through the drain outlets 101b. A drain pipe is connected to the drain outlets 101b to discharge washing water and so on to the outside.

The bowl 101 is provided with a notch 101c for supporting a neck and a head support member 112 for supporting an occipital region of the person's head 10. The notch 101c is provided at the center in a right and left direction of the bowl 101. By setting a person's neck at the notch 101c, the person's head 10 is positioned at the center in the right and left direction in the bowl 101. The head support member 112 can be adjusted in position in the vertical and horizontal directions on the basis of the position of the person's head 10, which is detected by a position detector such as a camera for detecting the position of the person's head 10.

The head support member 112 is preferably positioned such that the support shafts 104L and 104R of the washing units 12L and 12R are located near person's ears. A load on the person's neck can be suppressed by driving the washing units 12L and 12R using the positions near the person's ears as base points. The head support member 112 may be designed to wash the occipital region of the person's head 10 supported by the head support member 112.

The support columns 102L and 102R installed in the bowl 101 are movable in the axial directions of the support shafts 104L and 104R attached to the support columns 102L and 102R, respectively. Thereby, the distance between the person's head 10 and the arm base 103L or 103R can be adjusted according to the size of the person's head 10 supported by the head support member 112.

To prevent scattering water and shampoo to the outside during washing, the bowl 101 is provided with the openable hood 113. Preferably, the hood 113 is made of a transparent material so as not to cause the user to have an oppressive feeling and anxiety as much as possible during washing.

In the automatic head washing apparatus 100, as shown in FIG. 2, a cover 125 for covering the contacts 109 of the washing units 12L and 12R may be provided. The cover 125 may be provided so as to cover one contact 109 or the plurality of contacts 109.

By covering the contacts 109 with the cover 125, it can be prevented that water, shampoo, or a stain is adhered to the contacts 109. When a stain or the like is adhered to the cover 125, the cover 125 may be exchanged to keep contact parts with the person's head 10 clean. By exchanging the cover 125 for each person whose head is washed, the person's head 10 can be washed in a clean state at all times.

While the automatic head washing apparatus 100 washes the head 10 of the person 8, a water shield visor may be attached to the head 10. In this case, water ejected from the nozzles 110 is shielded by the water shield visor, preventing water from splashing on the face of the person 8.

As described later, the automatic head washing system 1 includes a control device 700 (see FIG. 1) for comprehensively controlling the entire operation of the automatic head washing system 1. The control device 700 can independently drive the washing units 12L and 12R. The control device 700 controls various operations of the motors 201L and 201R, the motors 206L and 206R, and the motor 301L. The motors 201L and 201R cause the washing units 12L and 12R to rotate about the support shafts 104L and 104R, respectively, the motors 206L and 206R cause the washing units 12L and 12R to rotate about the arm rotation shafts 209L and 209R, respectively, and the motor 301L causes the contacts 109 to rotate.

The automatic head washing apparatus 100 is used as an apparatus for automatically wash the person's head 10, and in the state where the nozzles 110 do not eject water, shampoo, or the like, can be also used as an apparatus for automatically massaging the person's head 10 with the contacts 109.

Coordinate polarity and so on in the automatic head washing apparatus 100 will be defined below with reference to FIG. 11 to FIG. 13. Although FIG. 11 to FIG. 13 show only the left arm 114L of the left and right arms 114L and 114R, the same definition also applies to the right arm 114R. In following description, the plurality of contacts 109 provided at the left arm 114L are collectively referred to as a “contact group L”, and the plurality of contacts 109 provide at the right arm 114R are collectively referred to as a “contact group R”.

FIG. 11 is a diagram for illustrating a first operating direction of the automatic head washing apparatus 100, and in this embodiment, as shown in FIG. 11, the left arm 114L rotates about the arm rotation shaft 209L so as to get close to or away from the surface of the person's head 10, which is referred to as a “push-rotating”. The direction in which the left arm 114L approaches to the head 10 is referred to as a “pushing direction (direction of an arrow 401)”, and the direction in which the left arm 114L separates away from the head 10 is referred to as a “release direction (direction of an arrow 402)”. The angular position at which the left arm 114L is furthest from the head 10 is defined as 0 degrees, and the pushing direction is referred to as a positive direction.

FIG. 12 is a diagram for illustrating a second operating direction of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. As shown in FIG. 12, in the automatic head washing apparatus 100, the left arm 114L rotates about the support shaft 104L in the forward and rearward direction of the head 10, which is referred to as a “swinging”. The angular position in the rear of the head 10 is defined as 0 degrees, and the direction toward the front of the head 10 (direction of an arrow 403) is defined as a positive direction. In this embodiment, the left arm 114L can swing up to 130 degrees.

FIG. 13 is a diagram for illustrating a third operating direction of the automatic head washing apparatus 100. As shown in FIG. 13, in the automatic head washing apparatus 100, the plurality of contacts 109 are attached to each of the fourth arms 309L, 310L, 317L, and 320L of the third arms 107L and 108L constituting a part of the left arm 114L. The direction of an arrow 404 when viewed from the third arms 107L and 108L is the direction in which the left arm 114L swings toward the front of the head 10.

In FIG. 13, the position angle of the contact group L as shown by a broken line is defined as 0 degrees, and the direction of an arrow 405 is defined as a positive direction. The contact group L can rotate to the state shown by a solid line and in this embodiment, can rotate to 60 degrees. The fourth arms 309L, 310L, 317L, and 320L each having the pair of contacts 109 rotate about the rotation shafts 308L, 312L, 316L, and 319L, respectively, which is referred to as a “knead-rotating”.

“Push-rotating of same phase” means that the left arm 114L and the right arm 114R push-rotate in the same direction (the pushing direction or the release direction) at all times. “Push-rotating of opposite phase” means that the left arm 114L and the right arm 114R push-rotate in opposite directions (the pushing direction and the release direction) at all times.

“Swinging of same phase” means that the left arm 114L and the right arm 114R swing in the same direction (the direction toward the front or rear of the head 10) at all times. “Swinging of opposite phase” means that the left arm 114L and the right arm 114R swing in opposite directions (the direction toward the front of the head 10 and the direction toward the rear of the head 10) at all times. When the left and right arms 114L and 114R swing at opposite phase, the sum of the angles of swinging of both the arms 114L and 114R is a value equal to the maximum angle (130 degrees) at all times.

When the left contact group L is compared with the right contact group R, “knead-rotating of same phase” means that the contact groups L and R knead-rotate symmetrically at all times. When the left contact group L is compared with the right contact group R, “knead-rotating of opposite phase” means that the contact groups L and R knead-rotate point-symmetrically at all times.

When the fourth arms 309L, 310L, 317L, and 320L are compared with each other, “knead-rotating of same phase” means that the compared fourth arms knead-rotate in the same direction at all times. In this case, “knead-rotating of opposite phase” means that the compared fourth arms knead-rotate in opposite directions at all times. When the compared fourth arms knead-rotate at opposite phase, the sum of angles of knead-rotating of both the arms is a value equal to the maximum angle (60 degrees) at all times.

The present invention has been described using the embodiment, the present invention is not limited to the embodiment and may be variously modified so as not to deviate from the effect of the present invention.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

The automatic head care system according to the present invention can be widely used in the industry of beauty care and hairdressing and in the medical field including nursing, which is useful.

PARTS LIST

  • 1 Automatic head washing system
  • 10 head
  • 11 head support
  • 100 automatic head washing apparatus
  • 101 bowl
  • 104L, 104R, 212L, 212R, 213L, 213R, 214L, 214R support shaft
  • 105L, 105R first arm
  • 106L, 106R second arm
  • 107L, 107R, 108L, 108R third arm
  • 309L, 309R, 310L, 310R, 317L, 317R, 320L, 320R fourth arm
  • 109 contact
  • 110 nozzle
  • 111L, 111R pipe
  • 114L left arm
  • 114R right arm
  • 115L, 115R arm housing
  • 125 cover
  • 211L, 211R pressure sensor
  • 216 water system valve
  • 217 washing liquid system valve
  • 218 conditioner system valve
  • 500 reclining seat
  • 510 height adjusting device
  • 530 horizontally moving device
  • 700 control device
  • 701L, 701R arm swing angle control section
  • 702L, 702R arm pushing angle control section
  • 703L, 703R contact group angle control section
  • 704 water system valve control section
  • 705 washing liquid system valve control section
  • 706 conditioner system valve control section
  • 707 operating section
  • 708 system control section
  • 708A storage unit
  • 708B posture adjusting unit
  • 708C head insertion preparing unit
  • 708D head horizontal movement control unit
  • 708E head insertion confirming unit
  • 708F head insertion completion confirming unit
  • 708G pseudo elasticity forming unit
  • 708H simple scanning unit
  • 708I head height adjustment control unit
  • 708J head supporting control unit
  • 708K vertical movement following control unit
  • 708L horizontal movement following control unit