Robots Enabling Us?

animated picture of robot

Well, what is the future for technology for persons with disabilities?  Many of us are so focused on computers, that we neglect the ever rising star, robots.  Hollywood at least has given us some interesting movies that stir our imagination.  Star Wars, Terminators, Bicentennial Man, Artificial Intelligence, I, Robot, WALL E and many others(for a complete history of robots in movies: http://www.filmsite.org/robotsinfilm.html

Recently I watched the film Surrogates, there was one part of the movie that mentioned folks with disabilities.  The robot designer came up with an idea to help persons with physical disabilities.  The idea was for a robot to be controlled by the person, and that they would function in society as that robot.  In the film the idea went well beyond that when people realized they could all have surrogates for themselves until everyone in society was at home controlling their robot, with the robots running society, driving cars, doing jobs.

Think about it, what if a person who is paralyzed and could live a live through a machine that looks as real as any human.  Pretty cool right!  Well the movie’s plot is more complicated, and I won’t ruin it for you.  You can rent it on DVD.  Here is a trailer for the film:  http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2365915673/

Healthcare is one area where the reality of robotics is being used to help those with disabilities.  Medical procedures are now being done with robotics including prostate and cardiac surgical procedures.  Intelligent prostheses are being designed that help people recover functions.  The more advanced idea that we can replace ourselves with fully human robots is fiction of course, but that a look at some uses of robots employed today.


In this video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0_mLumx-6Y you will learn about Segway inventor Dean Kamen, who is looking to re-invent the prosthetic arm. IEEE Spectrum caught up with Kamen and one of his “test pilots,” to see the robotic arm called his Luke arm (named after Luke Skywalker).  He says that upper limbs are in the Flintstones while lower limbs are in the 21st century.

In this video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mCSHO1GtaQ robotic legs are discussed.  Simon is a PhD student who uses a prosthetic leg to get around.  The bionic leg reads signals from a device on his human leg and mimics the walking of the first.

Robotic Advances

In another video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rg246IFabOc  we see a  robotic receptionist speaks, listens and has facial expressions.  Like the Surrogates, but only controlled via computer.  Another place robotics are being used is to add strength for people – another video I watched showed how nurses who do transfers could use such additional strength were fitted with a special exoskeleton suit that provide them with extra power.

Robot Assisted Surgery

Surgical procedures can and are done using robots.  This video shows a grape being peeled by the Da Vinci Robot for surgery.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ThI1njlxK4  The machine provides magnification for the surgeon that allows for procedures to be more controlled and with less scarring.

You may know robotics are employed today for pool cleaning, vacuuming, and lawn mowing.  We are still a long way from replacement bodies, but the potential of robotics to help persons who are disabled is still being dreamed about. Yet as technology advances, that reality may only be a few years away.

If you are interested in robotics, and want to see how sophisticated they are becoming, check out the following links:

Student work that got attention:  http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/02/09/spider-robot-learns-walk/

For Carnegie Mellon Robot Hall of Fame inductees: http://news.cs.cmu.edu/article.php?a=823

Honda has an advanced intelligence technology who is travelling the globe to promote science:  http://world.honda.com/ASIMO/


1 Response to “Robots Enabling Us?”

  1. 1 mark1point0
    10/02/2010 at 11:21 pm

    What? no mention of Dick’s Blade Runner? Even so; this post was a good read!! I suspect that already human combat pilots are increasingly losing ground to robots. It just makes sense…such is life, human.

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