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Cyber salon: The Dubai company taking robotic masseurs global (

The UAE is already at the forefront of a revolution, as the rise of advanced technology ushers in an era of robot assisted surgeries, autonomous taxis and groceries expertly delivered by drones.

Now a Dubai company is shaking up the wellness industry by offering massage therapy with a robotic rather than human touch.

Robosculptor, which has its headquarters in Germany but operates a research and development facility and assembly line in Dubai Production City, has created a robotic massage therapy device that is being marketed to wellness companies struggling with customer demand that outweighs the number of skilled therapists.

The brand started out in the aesthetics field, with a device for slimming, skin rejuvenation and volume reduction, the company’s chief executive Dennis Ledenkof tells The National. But this needed to be overseen by humans.

“One of the bottlenecks for our technology turned out to be workforce shortage, so to sell more devices you need to somehow solve this issue. And we decided to start to think about a robotic system that will apply this method on to a human body.”

AI-powered therapy

The result is a high-tech device powered by artificial intelligence that delivers a lymphatic drainage massage focusing on the legs, thighs, backside and stomach, as well as the back and sides of the body.

The device uses a method of vibration-compression therapy using spheres on a robotic arm and its software has the ability to map a human body and learn its movements.

The device follows a specific protocol that has been created by doctors, said Mr Ledenkof, but they have several future updates in mind, including a human-to-robot voice interface rooted in AI that would allow users to customise their massage.

They’re planning to sell this not only as a machine, but also as a network which will be rolled out region by region with an app so people can book a treatment in various locations.

The company is now in the final stages of research and development, and aims to manufacture up to 50 devices within one year, the first of which will be sent out from Dubai in a matter of months.

Mr Ledenkof said they have a number of clients in the pipeline, including a hotel in Miami and a network of massage salons in airports all over the world. In the UAE, they’re in talks with numerous wellness-based businesses, but nothing is finalised yet.

Mr Ledenkof said they chose Dubai as its manufacturing base due to its reputation within the robotics field, but also because of affordability and location.

“It’s a landing point between South Asia and Europe and the US, so you can jump to Europe on a plane pretty effectively,” he said.

“When we deliver our devices for exhibitions, it’s quite affordable.”

Embracing innovation

Robotics is nothing new in the UAE and devices, from surgical robots to AI-powered planning systems, have been used in the health and wellness sectors for years.

The UAE economy is expected to grow by 5 per cent this year and the government is keen to boost foreign direct investment inflows in areas such as AI and robotics. Various societies and associations have been set up, including The Robotics and Automation Society, which held its first meeting last year.

Across the Middle East, the robotics market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 15 per cent from 2021 to 2026, according to a report by Mordor Intelligence.

The study found demand is being driven by the increasing adoption of automation and the need for affordable solutions in industries such as health care and hospitality.

Mr Ledenkof said that while there are several advantages to manufacturing their devices in the UAE, there have also been a few obstacles. For example, they have struggled with sourcing quality materials and securing necessary certifications and authorisations, as well as finding specialised workers.

“The UAE is a traditional region for trade rather than manufacturing, so we couldn’t find a laboratory for the test reports. We needed to send the device to Europe or China. But this is doable.”

Globally, one of the biggest challenges they’ve had so far is education and they’ve been presenting the machine in demonstrations for two years already.

Mr Ledenkof said initial reactions were of fear, although as the world gets used to the concept of robotics, they’re getting fewer questions about the general safety of the device, which has been tested and certified in line with international standards.

Another concern they’ve had is whether this device will take the jobs of massage therapists. “Robotics doesn’t take people’s job, they apply in the areas where there is a lack of people,” said Mr Ledenkof, adding that this device only improves efficiency.

It also makes massage therapy more affordable and accessible to people, as facilities can charge less for a one-hour session with the machine than with a human, he added.

For now, Robosculptor’s system is unique, although there are other companies offering similar services, such as a company in France whose AI-powered massage bed attempts to mimic the sensation of a therapist’s hands. There’s also a Spanish company that treats muscular conditions with a hot pressurised air stream to specific areas of the body.

“All the companies have developed their own niche,” said Mr Ledenkof.

“We will not be able to deliver a Balinese massage, but if you’re expecting that volumes need to be reduced and with predictability, that is what we offer.”


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