Steve Mahan, a man who lost 95% of his sight and is now way past legally blind, recently test drove Google’s self driven car, and the result is impressive.
I noticed the video is audio described for the visually-impaired but not captioned for the hearing-impaired.
Taking clothes on and off are essential activities in daily life, but for elderly and physically challenged people this can be difficult due to limited mobility in the upper limbs.
A Breakthrough in Robotics: WAM™ Arms at NAIST Aid in Dressing the Elderly and Infirm
CAMBRIDGE, MA–(Marketwire – Nov 10, 2011) – The Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST), of Japan, has created the world’s first robot system that learns to clothe elderly and physically disabled people. Leveraging the concept of “skills transfer” from a human caregiver to a robot, “reinforcement learning” takes place in minutes, gracefully adapting to the individual size and shape of the person being dressed. Barrett Technology, Inc. manufactures the patented robotic arms and is working closely with NAIST researchers. This international collaboration has been a seamless synthesis of Barrett’s contact-compliant hardware and NAIST’s advanced computer intelligence.
Many benefits of modern medicine are helping baby-boomers live well into their 80s and 90s. At the same time couples are having fewer children, thereby constraining family care givers. Many older people want the dignity of independence but often require assistance with basic activities, such as cooking, bathing, and dressing. Increasingly, robots are playing vital roles in solving quality-of-life issues for this growing segment of our population.
Knowledge quickly goes out of date, but foresight enables you to anticipate and navigate change, make good decisions, and take action to create a better future. It’s why I’ve been a member of the Central Texas chapter of the World Future Society for years, where I meet interesting people with widely varied perspectives of the future. It’s also why I participate in so many Linkedin discussion groups on emerging healthcare issues.
9 Forecasts for the Future of Healthcare
The following nine forecasts came from the World Future Society’s special report, 20 Forecasts for 2011-2025. It’s a promotional piece to attract new members who then get a subscription to The Futurist magazine.
Forecast #1: The Race for Genetic Enhancements Will Be What the Space Race Was in the 20th Century. Genetic therapies and biomedical enhancements will be a multibillion-dollar industry. New techniques will enable doctors to change your DNA to revitalize old or diseased organs, enhance your appearance, increase your athletic ability, or boost your intelligence.
Step by step, bionic engineers are transforming lives in ways that barely could have been imagined until recently.
This CBS News story is about bionic limbs that replace wheelchairs, retinal implants that bring sight to the blind, and synthetic telepathy that reads thoughts and transmits them electronically through a computer and wireless network to control bionics or communicate without formal language.
This month’s National Geographic features a story about robots that can think, act, and relate to humans and asks if we are ready. A related article on bionics follows innovations in neural prostheses, or mechanical systems that tie into the nervous system and function like living organisms or parts of living organisms, giving sight to the blind, sound to the deaf, and movement to the amputee or quadriplegic. Both articles are logical extensions of our discussion of healthcare robots, and I found them extremely interesting.
Androids represent a new generation of robots designed as autonomous agents capable of thinking, learning and taking on tasks previously done by humans in a human environment, rather than as programmed industrial machines that do only one thing. They may soon be able to move about the home, cook for us, fold laundry, babysit children, tend to elderly, and become companions.
But that raises lots of questions. How much human function do we want to outsource to robots? Will they behave ethically and have human-like feelings? What will they look like; how will we interact with them; will we accept them; and can we afford them?
Stereo cameras in Microsoft’s Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360 gaming console can see things in 3-D and enable gestures and body movement as human interfaces to video games, eliminating the need for handheld controllers. But hackers are finding other uses beyond gaming.
Within weeks of the device’s release last November, someone posted a $1,000 bounty to whoever posted the first open source Kinect device drivers, according to this Wired magazine article, and Kinect took off.
Microsoft was horrified at first, tried to stop the hackers, and even threatened to prosecute them. But as the company saw the many imaginary new uses, which its own engineers never envisioned, it shifted its stance and started a love affair with the hackers themselves. Now Microsoft openly recruits academic and hobbyist hackers and encourages Kinect hacking with its own software developer toolkit. Some of the many new applications relate to healthcare, and we’ll surely see more soon.
ReWalk™ is a wheelchair alternative for individuals with severe walking impairments, enabling them to stand, walk, ascend/descent stairs and more.
The video shows Radi Kaiof, a former Israeli paratrooper who was injured on duty. He demonstrates the promise ReWalk has for the future. The current version costs about $150,000, has an 8 hour battery life, and is in clinical trial testing at MossRehab in suburban Philadelphia. We hope to see devices like this on the market soon at affordable prices.
Robots and other assistive technology may be inevitable in aged care moving into the future, but can they replace the human touch? Annie May reports. Reprinted with permission from Aged Care INsite, Apr/May 2011
Standing at just 40cm tall and looking suspiciously like the latest toy their grandchildren have been dropping hints about for their upcoming birthdays, Matilda the robot doesn’t give the impression that she has much to offer in the way of care for the elderly.
So when placed in front of an aged care resident to talk about her diet, the resident doesn’t have high expectations. But on admitting to having a love of sweets, Matilda is quick to inform her about all the negative health impacts this indulgence can have. Becoming slightly anxious, – whether a result of being lectured by a bright orange robot or at the thought of having to cut back on her sweets – the resident is then shocked at being reassured by the robot.
How can it be that this baby-face robot can read emotions and give a sensitive response? The result of a breakthrough by Melbourne and Japanese scientists, Matilda is one of two robots, the other her brother Jack, which has been developed with ‘emotional intelligent’ software.
Here’s my reply to this Business Week article:
Proprietary technologies from Cisco, Polycom and others will likely remain in a niche market, because mass-market telepresence adoption, like the phone system before it, depends on Metcalfe’s law. Metcalfe stated that “the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.”
That means free services like Skype and FaceTime, which reply on open standards, can provide value that increases exponentially as they scale to far more users. Yes, their video quality is limited by network speed, but as bandwidth increases they will soon support HDTV resolutions. They’ll also adjust resolution automatically to match network speed so the same software can be used for low- or high-res video calls, depending on who you’re calling and where.
Already companies like Lifesize Communications deliver HD video quality in telepresence systems for small businesses and home offices. They only need 1Mbps of bandwidth in both directions, so Cisco is on the right track with Umi, and if anything is scrambling to catch up.
Cisco likely sees the futility of its proprietary designs. Rather than building or renting a $200,000 telepresence suite with multiple HDTV screens, each with high bandwidth requirements, it seems more prudent to invest in systems that can sense who is speaking and automatically display their image onto a single PC video screen in HD.