By Susan Jacobs
Georgia Tech’s Center for Healthcare Robotics has recently developed a robot that assists disabled people around the house. Called the "El-E," this robot is over 5-feet-tall and boasts a large mechanical arm. It is far from humanoid looking, but it certainly serves a humane cause by helping those with mobility issues.
A human with a laser pointer guides El-E. When the laser is pointed at an object and a button is clicked, the robot responds by moving to the object, picking it up and bringing it to its master (for lack of a better word). Essentially, Georgia Tech has created a very high-tech device that fetches items.
This breakthrough has endless possibilities for the disabled, as well as able-bodied citizens everywhere. Charlie Kemp, the director of the project, states that the robot "… creates a clickable world." Indeed, it is like having a computer cursor in the flesh, able to select and move anything you wish.
Another impressive feature is the "personality" that is programmed into the robot. El-E says various amusing phrases as it completes tasks. For instance, it might pick up an object and say, "Bob’s your uncle." Will this strange-looking, gangly robot be able to replace helper monkeys and dogs? Only time will tell.
This summer, El-E will be further tested with a group of patients who suffer from a degenerative disease. Then, the creators will really see how practical the machine is for widespread use amongst the disabled. Of course, practicality will probably also hinge on the machine’s cost, which is still a secret as of now. It can’t be very cheap, as the current version uses countless sensors, cameras and laser technology.
The current model of the El-E has a very "1.0" feel to it, particularly since it can only currently lift items weighing up to 1.2 pounds. One can only assume that this would be improved in the future. If the El-E robot does grow in popularity, it only makes sense for it to cross over into every household. Americans would no doubt love to spend copious amounts of money on a robot that will retrieve a remote control from across the room.
Susan Jacobs is a teacher, a freelance writer as well as a regular contributor for NOEDb, a site helping students obtain an online nursing degree. Susan invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address firstname.lastname@example.org . To contribute your post to Medgadget contact us at medgadget–@–medgadget–dot–com.