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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 »
Someday soon, older adults may not need to move into nursing homes because they’ll have a household of technological wonders to keep an eye on them when they become frail. That’s what this Dallas Morning News article says, after taking a look at what the University of Texas is doing to keep seniors more independent for longer. UT’s Human-Centered Computing Laboratory houses a make-believe one-bedroom apartment equipped with high-tech cameras, motion sensors and robots, and surrounded by computer stations. Robots scoot from room to room to wake the homeowners in the morning, remind them to eat and send for help if someone falls. Sensors embedded throughout home detect when the resident has a sleepless nights or forgets to take his medication. Web-based computer software will notify family members and caregivers. The UT lab will be “the springboard for what experts predict will be an exploding assistive technology industry within ... keep reading »
I’ve often argued that people with physical disabilities are functionally more ‘interesting’ human beings because they’ve incorporated machines into their brains and bodies. For those of you who haven’t already seen Iron Man, the superhero escapes from a cave in Afghanistan in part by building a pair of robotic legs. This sci-fi movie is more grounded in reality than it appears. Earlier this month, researchers at a university in Japan unveiled a robotic suit that reads brain signals and helps disabled people walk. The suit, known as HAL — short for “hybrid assistive limb” — is available to rent in Japan for $2,200 a month. (Cost to buy will be around $15,000-$20,000). This invention will have far-reaching benefits for the disabled as well as the elderly, giving them the “potential to lift up to 10-times the weight they normally could.” Other researchers around the world, including those at MIT, are ... keep reading »

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