Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Service Robots for the Home Being Developed in the US

There has been a great deal of discussion regarding Japanese and European robotic research directed at caring for the homebound. However, researchers in the U.S. are also tackling this challenge. At the University of Massachusetts, MIT, and at Georgia Tech roboticists are building service robots. E.J. Mundell discusses these initiatives in an November 18th BusinessWeek article titled, "Robots may come to Aging Boomers' Rescue."

The uBOT-5, being developed by a team in the Laboratory for Perpetual Robotics at UMass monitors the home environment and performs a few simple tasks. With a video screen mounted on Segway-like wheels, the robot can move around the house, and allow distant relatives or doctors to have virtual visits with the homebound. At MIT a team lead by Nichols Roy is building an "autonomous wheelchair" that requires only a voice command to travel to another place in a home or hospital. Service dogs are the prototypes for the home-care robots being created by Charlie Kemp at Georgia Tech. Opening drawers and working light switches are among the tasks performed by these service-pets.

Given a predicted shortage of 800,000 nurses and home health-care aides by 2020, there is expected to be high demand for robotic caregivers by aging boomers.

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