With controls that use augmented reality technology, people would be able to operate robots to help them perform tasks – such as scratching or applying creams – for which support would be of benefit.
The PR2 ‘robotic body surrogate’ can manipulate objects such as electric shavers, hairbrushes, or picking up water bottles.
Around four fifths of participants in a study were able to operate a mouse curser to control the robot and use it to perform tasks. The research was intended to establish whether using robotic body surrogates could improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.
Dr Phillip Grice from the Georgia Institute of Technology said,
“Our results suggest that people can improve their quality of life using robotic body surrogates. We have taken the first step toward making it possible for someone to purchase an appropriate robot, have it in their home, and benefit from it.”
In the primary study, the participants used their own assistive equipment to operate a mouse curser, learning to operate the robot so that it could support them when performing their own care tasks.
Because the web-based interface (which functions through the internet) has been built around a simple single-button, users don’t need to have long, onerous training sessions and it would be accessible to many. For the user, the world is viewed from cameras positioned inside the robot’s ‘head’ so they can move it around their environment and control the robot’s arms and hands.
The next step is to reduce the size and cost of the robot to progress it further towards becoming commercially viable.