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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 ... keep reading »
Sometimes I get Mac envy. Like today when I was switching between my touchpad and wireless mouse to prevent hand fatigue and cramping, I had wished I owned a MacBook Air, which has a giant touchpad and offers an easier, more fun ‘touch’ experience using several fingers. I began thinking about alternative mouse devices, especially for people with physical and motor impairments. For those with limited motor skills, there are a variety of options that have been around for a while, including the joystick, head pointers, Mouse keys and eye gaze devices. But the coolest non-mouse is known as multitouch, which was popularized by Apple’s iPhone, and lets computer users control graphical applications with their fingers. Touch is quickly becoming a common way of directly interacting with software and devices. Today iPhone and MacBook Air are used by millions of people with and without disabilities, and other companies are bringing ... keep reading »

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