Robots that fetch

December 1, 2008


Whether you would care to admit it or not, man / machine hybrids are already walking amongst us, and robots are doing everything from building cars to managing the BCS and the stock market. I, for one, welcome and embrace our new technological partners (Note: partners NOT masters – lets not get silly here).

It took Norma Margeson a few minutes to learn to control the skinny metal robot. But instead of viewing it as a machine, she soon warmed up to it as a companion. “Oh, I love it,” she said. “I think it is such a unique character. It has a personality all its own. It can be a friend, a very good friend.” Margeson, an artist from Marietta, Georgia, is learning how a health care robot dubbed El-E (pronounced “Ellie”) can help her accomplish some simple household tasks. El-E is being tested by Margeson and other patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Right now Kemp and his colleagues are focusing on programming El-E to locate and fetch common household items such as a hairbrush, a bottle of pills, a cell phone or a TV remote. El-E also can open doors. A robot with those skills could provide some independence for patients with motor impairments and a respite for caregivers. Kemp said he hopes his robots could help people in wheelchairs, the elderly and those with such diseases as arthritis and diabetes.

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