Archives for posts with tag: robotics

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A lightweight wearable robot which subtly assists with human movement? The amazing innovation of wearable technology cannot be achieved without intelligence, countless hours of work, and years of research by those behind the products. Boosted by a recent DARPA grant, Harvard’s Wyss Insititute is developing a Soft Exosuit to assist with walking with the use of textiles and wearable sensors. While not yet a completed product for the market, it is already clear how this wearable robot can potentially change the lives of those with neurological disorders, muscle weakness, the elderly, and those that are fatigue-prone in professions such as the military and first responders.

The components of this product are amazing, especially in their consideration to avoid interference of the device with the user. Elastic textiles that align with certain muscle groups and transmit forces to the body to assist with natural, synergistic movement during gait. Because the textiles are elastic and are unable to measure angles at joints (as rigid components do normally), wearable sensors at the hip, calf and ankle monitor forces and changes in movement. The idea is to provide assistive torque at the joints to mimic normal muscle activity when needed. The sensors track the changes in movement to monitor the types of activities of the user, such as walking or running, to assist with the diversity of everyday activity.

Something especially interesting about the Exosuit is how closely it works with human physiology and biomechanics during gait, including the passive movement of the limbs during walking. Because the functional textiles stretch, they can closely align with muscle groups and assist movement without letting the components interfere with what is natural for the body.

Please see the video below for more:

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Printing is currently extremely inconvenient if you do not have regular access to a printer. Which is why it is so exciting that a mobile printer is in production and will be available for sale as early as next year. The Zuta Labs Mini Mobile Robotic Printer is a 10 x 11.5 centimeter pocket printer which is essentially an inkjet that rolls over whichever paper on which you need to print. The printer just needs a wireless connection, and can be recognized on computers as a regular printer. It supports iOS, Android, Linux, and Windows. The mobile printer is designed to start at the top of the page, and an inkjet rests on multidirectional wheels in order to cover the surface on which it is printing.

The Pocket Printer’s¬†Kickstarter page has met its goal, but is still accepting backers in order to add more features.

See the videos below for a demonstration of how the device will look when it is working and their informational Kickstarter video:

 

For those with diminished strength or function of the hand, daily tasks that we often take for granted may become difficult, essentially disabling someone in their daily life. To address this and increase efficiency of the performance of the hand, researchers at MIT have developed “Supernumerary Robotic Fingers,” a type of wearable robotic device with two extra fingers to complement the grasping function of a regular hand.

In normal human movements we have muscles that work synergistically, meaning that there is a central signal from the brain that allows them to contract together to create a certain movement. For example, when the biceps contracts to bend the elbow, the muscle brachialis contracts as well to help facilitate this movement. This allows for efficiency of tasks in our body.

An article titled Bio-Artificial Synergies for Grasp Postural Control of Supernumerary Robotic Fingers explains how the researchers have developed an algorithm to allow the robotic fingers to work synergistically with human hands. That is, the extra fingers are designed to correlate with the human movements to work as an extension of the human hand and enhance activity to form essentially a seven-fingered hand. The researchers use the concept of “Bio-Artificial Synergy.” Thus, the researchers have essentially developed extra fingers that replicate the movements of muscles in the human hand.

The device is mounted on the wrist, and through a sensor glove receives a signal from the hand and works alongside the five fingers to assist with grasping objects. The robotic fingers are longer than human digits, making it easier to grasp larger objects. Each robotic finger can move in 3 different directions. For those that have difficulty holding onto objects or performing coordinated movements, this can be an invaluable tool to perform tasks independently.

Because of these extra fingers, the user is able to perform tasks that are normally difficult to perform single-handedly, such as twisting open a bottle cap, holding a tablet and typing, This product is still in the development phase, and though researchers have amazingly been able to correlate the robotic hand angles with human hand angles for grasp, they have not yet completed algorithms for fingertip forces.

The article mentions that this devices has implications not only for elder care, but for construction and manufacturing.

See the video below for more description of this amazing device:

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As our rate of multitasking increases, we may as well embrace the age of interactive robots in our home. Crowd-funded JIBO by Cynthia Breazeal is a personal robot with a variety of functions. According to the website, JIBO can see, hear, learn, help, speak and relate. It is a personalized robot that can take orders, tell interactive stories, make video calls, and sense social and emotional cues to respond appropriately to its user. As you walk around a room, it has enabled face recognition and responds to you appropriately. While we have seen components of these in other devices, JIBO is more of a polished home companion that can interact both with other devices and humans.

Available at the end of 2015, can be pre-ordered for $499.

See the promotional video below:

Being permanently confined to a wheelchair not only limits you for health reasons, but wheelchairs are also a huge physical barrier to traveling between locations. Even if a target destination is coined ADA accessible, logistically getting to and from a location can have so many barriers that it may not be worth the trip. Constantly relying on others for assistance, not being able to speak at eye level, the physical impact of constantly sitting are some of the problems those that are confined to a wheelchair must experience.

Developed a couple of years ago but finally being released for sale on the market sometime this year, Tek Robotics has developed a robotic mobilization device that allows an individual to independently stand, and then mobilize them to a location that may not be wheelchair accessible. Each device supports a person from behind and gently pulls them into standing position, all without the assistance of a second individual. Instead of throwing the body forward as needed to heave someone out of a wheelchair, this battery-operated devices uses a gas spring to help suspend a person in a standing position. The dimensions are thin enough to fit through a regular doorway (it occupies one third the width of a wheelchair, states the website) but also designed for balance even with the narrower base.

Reservations are now being taken for shipment sometime this year. Each unit will cost approximately $15,000. See the video below for more explanation:

 

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Most emergency medical training involves lifeless torsos, videos, and noninvasive simulated work on a live partner in which you haphazardly  practice what you would actually have to do in an emergency situation. From my personal experience of many CPR classes as well as a course of emergency medical training, I can attest none of this prepares you very well for what you would actually have to act out in a life threatening situation. No, you can never fully prepare for having to rescue someone, but what gives you the confidence to do it is practicing something similar prior to having to act on the spot.

Kernerworks has developed a realistic robotic mannequin that breathes, bleeds, and responds to procedures to give feedback if they have been performed correctly.This company in San Rafael, CA includes a team of former special effects artists that used to work for film studios. The mannequins were molded from real people, given realistic features, and have an internal computer system that includes sensors which respond to procedures.

Used for military training for trauma response, one of the products is a double amputee mannequin which allows trainees to practice relieving pnueumothorax with a needle (sensors respond if done correctly). One of the features is also a well developed throat which features air differential sensors. Medics can practice placing a laryngoscope into the throat which has a camera so you can see the placement of a tube for breathing. An endotracheal tube can be placed in the throat for use of an Ambu bag, if done correctly this shows the chest rising. If it is done incorrectly and the tube is accidentally placed into the esophagus, the chest will not rise. Unlike most practice torsos, these are sensors responding to these procedures, which are much more precise. Watch the video above for a tour Tested shared which explains more about the company and the incredible work behind the mannequins.

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The age of robotics has created a new kind of athlete, and the possibilities are quite amazing. 2016 will mark the first Cybathlon, to be held in Switzerland. This will be a competition for parathletes, called “pilots,” using robot-assisted technology. The competition is an Olympics-style event, featuring six different competitions, or “disciplines.” Each discipline features pilots with a specific category of injury using an appropriate device. In this competition, both the pilots and robotics companies are allowed the opportunity to win a prize. This competition is not only a victory for the advancement of robotics beyond basic function, but more importantly for athletes with life altering injuries such as amputations and spinal cord injuries.

The first competition will is an “Arms Prosthetic Race,” which features two events. Those with amputation of the arms using upper body bionic prosthetics to complete a two hand course using a loop around a wire, and a “SHAP course ADL” which is an upper body obstacle course requiring pilots to perform a series of tasks, grasping different kinds of objects in order to progress to the next.

The second discipline is a BCI (brain computer interface) race, in which participants mentally race avatars through a variety of obstacle courses. This discipline is for those with spinal cord injury at neck level, which has left them paralyzed from the neck down.

The discipline close to heart, however, is the “Powered Exoskeleton Race.” Did we ever think we would see a day when athletes with spinal cord injuries leaving their lower body without motor control would run in an Olympic-style event? This discipline will feature an obstacle course including stairs, ramps, slopes, narrow beam and others, ending in a final sprint. Wow.

For those with spinal cord injuries leaving their trunk and upper body motor control intact, Discipline three features an FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation) bike race. An FES bike assists lower body movement while the trunk and arms work to help control the bike around a race course.

A Leg Prosthetics Race and Powered Wheelchair Race comprise two other disciplines for those with lower body injuries.

 

 

 

Surgery has come a long way with many facilities now using robotics to either assist or replace human tasks. Delicate procedures that require a lot of precision, repetition, and endurance can benefit from the use of such technology. A few years ago, CardioARM was developed for minimally invasive heart surgery. This device resembles a snake, which can travel to the target areas through insertion beneath the sternum and perform ablations of heart tissue that is disturbing heart rhythm. Ablation, meaning the target area of heart is burned away. This procedure replaces the more invasive task of opening the chest cavity and cutting away into your vitals. For anyone who has ever visualized the inside of a body, it is amazing that a device is not only able to navigate but reach a specific area of the heart and perform an ablation on target tissue.

CardioARM features 50 links which are connected by cables and can move in a combination of 105 different movements. The device can move forward and reverse, and is headed with a camera and light guide to allow for visualization. Once the CardioARM enters under the xyphoid process (bottom of the sternum), it is directed toward the specific region of troublesome heart tissue. Once it reaches its target, it delivers a “dot to dot” procedure for the ablation. Each lesion is delivered 30 watts of power for 30 seconds.

In 2011, this device was first successfully tested in human clinical trials. As it takes a long time for such devices to actually enter hospitals, this will hopefully become an option soon for surgeons dealing with life threatening arrhythmias.

It was only a matter of time before our machines became not only a functional, but emotional part of our lives. As devices become more and more personalized, we are drawn toward them in a way that we are drawn toward the people in our lives. “It knows me,” this personalization seems to say. And as these devices become more personalized with recognition features, where do we draw the line between functional robotics and love? After all, don’t robotics exist to fill a gap in life or make it more efficient? And aren’t humans sometimes unpredictable and unreliable, unlike our machines?

The Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Technology Laboratory (AIART) in Tawain has been developing a lovotics robot to further explore the human to robot relationship. Involved in this development is the understand of the physiology behind love, which of course is a complex combination of factors including hormones, affect and emotion. According to their website, the artificial intelligence in the lovotics lab mimics the different human systems involved in love and includes the development of an Artificial Endocrine System (physiology), Probabilistic Love Assembly (psychology), and the Affective State Transition (emotions).

The lab has worked on mimicking a myriad of human hormones, evaluating gestures and expressions. The psychological unit has looked into numerous parameters such as proximity, similarity, attachment, attraction, and reciprocal liking, among others. The robot not only enables these human components, but adjusts them based on input and feedback. Amazing, is love as mysterious as we like to think or a controllable environment of many components? This opens the window to questions of our future, will relationships as we know them change? See the video below.

And a video with more explanation:

For those that prefer independent living but require assistance with dally tasks such as eating, Swedish company Bestic has developed a robotic arm that assists with eating. It can be programmed for height, speed, and type of food, and allows the user to eat alongside others without requiring the assistance of another person. For those with musculoskeletal and neurological injuries and diseases that render their upper body muscles weak or with tremor such as Polio, MS, Parkinson’s or Ataxia, this allows for some normalcy at mealtime.

Those that are interested in trying the device can contact the makers through their website.

Watch the video below: