Robots with a soft side
Ok, robots and computers. A pretty glamorous field to be flexing your skills in isn’t it? But there’s a lot more to the game than just robots that play pianos. If you’re interested to know what, keep those eyes moving.
Thinking you know a computer’s full capabilities is a dangerous game to play. Because the very next moment they’ll grab you by the throat to re-educate you again. It’s just one of their nasty habits. And here’s a heads-up on another development.
Scientists hailing from De Montfort Uni. in Leicester have been toying around with a special kind of computational mathematics called Fuzzy Logic – a programme that gives computers free rein to make decisions like humans. And what’s the exact point of all this? We’re glad you asked. After being hooked up to sensors around the pads of the elderly, it keeps an eye out for sleeping patterns, breathing rates and even the sound of doors shutting. And if it smells a rat, it will alert a carer. A minder for the elderly without one being there. It can only be a good thing.
But while computer technology can cover off the less intrusive, it can do the hands on stuff too – and without breaking sweat. Like robots that help the elderly get from A to B:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKYabUPOoBg
Then there’s this one: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1829021.stm
Connected to a main computer to feed back info, these robots in disguise always know the state of play. Now there’s a good teddy.
Hungry for one last thing? That’s what we like to hear. People with motor neurone disease or spinal cord injuries can usually still control their eyes. So computer heads at Loughborough are developing a system that lets them control devices through sight alone. Televisions, curtains – that sort of thing.
The eye tracking system works by registering an object and then allowing the person to do as they please through a visual, drop down menu. You can’t make this stuff up. And here’s the proof: http://www.lboro.ac.uk
If you get a moment, check out the future for robotic elderly care: http://web.mit.edu/nickroy/www/papers/wire2000.pdf
Researchers from Imperial College London have also been hard at work discovering that millions of people who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy and spinal cord injuries may also be able to benefit from this smart technology. Eye-tracking devices are now being developed that will allow these individuals to browse the web and write e-mails using only their eyes in a ‘hands-off’ style approach.
The functionality of this software was developed by getting a group of people to play a simple computer game without the use of a handset. Check it out on this You Tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zapK5wvYU84
Not only is this quite impressive in itself, but it is now hoped that this kind of technology could be used to allow individuals to control their electronic wheelchair simply by looking at where they want to go, or to control a robotic prosthetic arm.
The possibilities are out there – could you be the one to take this technology further as:
- A computer programmer, creating virtual models of people’s home environment
- A vision researcher (orthoptist), helping to design an eye tracking device
- A laboratory technician, building and testing the prototype equipment
- A district nurse, helping disabled people to use this technology
- A project manager, organising trials of new equipment for disabled people
- A health psychologist developing ways in which to make new technology easier to use
- An electrician, installing a remote control system into people’s homes
Or maybe you could do your bit for the elderly as:
- A mathematician, working on fuzzy logic
- An acoustic physicist, modelling the behaviour of sound waves in confined spaces
- An electronics engineer, designing sensors to remotely monitor people
- A sales person, teaching carers and elderly people how to use the system
- A robotics scientist (electronics engineer), designing robots to help the elderly in their homes
- A speech and language therapist or cognitive scientist, helping to develop robots that interact with people
- An entrepreneur, running a company that sells robots for elderly care