Engineers at Georgia Tech are developing a health care robot for home use. The robot, named El-E (pronounced “Ellie”), can help people with disabilities accomplish some simple household tasks, such as fetching a bottle of pills or a cell phone. El-E is being tested by patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which affects motor skills. Health care robots may be commercially available in less than 10 years. The robots can also help the elderly and those with arthritis. El-E is about five feet tall and is equipped with a laser pointer interface that detects when a user illuminates a location with an off-the-shelf green laser pointer and estimates its whereabouts. The robot is trained to find objects that are on flat surfaces, such as a shelf or table. Once the object is acquired, the robot can place the object on a laser designated surface above the floor, follow the laser pointer on the floor, or deliver the object to a seated person selected with the laser pointer. The project’s head researcher, professor Charlie Kemp, has created a video that shows what El-E sees as it navigates across a room.
“Robot, Fetch My Slippers!”
December 1 2008 | by Suzanne Robitaille