The Robot Will See You Now

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In a 2013 TEDxMidAtlantic talk, a robot wheels onstage, displaying the face of Henry Evans, a mute and paraplegic technology enthusiast located 3,000 miles away. In 2002, Evans, a former Silicon Valley executive, suffered a stroke at age 40 that left him unable to move or talk.

Gradually, Evans began using various technologies to translate his slight head motions to a computer cursor, allowing him to speak through an electronic voice and navigate the Internet. But in 2010, Evans found himself wanting more. That year, he began to collaborate with California-based open-source robotics company Willow Garage and other researchers to develop Robots for Humanity (R4H), which aims to adapt robots to assist the severely disabled. Through R4H, Evans has learned to fly drones and maneuver an armed, wheeled robot called PR2 (below) as his surrogate, allowing him to take tours of remote locations and shave himself for the first time in 10 years.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”5149″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]“R4H is about using technology to extend our capabilities, fill in our weaknesses, and let people perform at their best,” Evans says.

The allure and promise of robots—physical machines able to perform tasks with some degree of autonomy and intelligence—have long captured the human imagination. From space exploration, to factory work, to home cleaning and companionship, robots have the potential to make our lives easier. And as electronics have steadily improved while dropping in price, more robots are moving into the marketplace for consumers.

“The field of human-robot interaction (HRI) is poised to revolutionize society over the next 40 years in the same way computing did over the last 40 years,” says Chad Jenkins, an associate professor at Brown University who specializes in HRI and who works with Evans through R4H.

Healthcare robots for consumers, in particular, are picking up stride. As the overall population of the world ages, the number of elderly, ill, or disabled people requiring healthcare is growing fast. Rather than rely on an overwhelmed group of caretakers and specialists, robots may be able to fill the gap to connect people to the services they need, such as providing virtual check-ups, assisting with physical tasks, and even offering emotional support and encouragement.

To read the rest of this article, published in IEEE Pulse, please click here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]