Robots Work to Catch Seniors Before They Fall

Pranshu Verma wrote . . . . . . . . .

Resercher last week unveiled a new robot that can predict and catch seniors before they fall — a potentially major development in caring for the world’s rapidly aging population.

The new device, which looks like a motorized wheelchair, has guard rails that come up to a person’s hip and are outfitted with sensors to judge when a person begins to go off balance. Users strap into a harness, and when they are starting to tip, the robot engages it to keep them from falling.

The machine’s inventors, from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, affectionately call the machine “Mr. Bah,” a stand-in for its actual name: the mobile robot balance assistant. The device still needs regulatory approval in major markets like the United States, and faces significant funding challenges for getting to market, but it is targeted to be available in two years, researchers said.

“Mr. Bah” joins a growing number of technological advances for elderly care, including robots that clean homes and provide companionship and wearable devices that track key health metrics. The robot’s inventors say their fall prevention robot is a crucial advance, especially since falls can often lead to serious injuries or deadly outcomes.

“[Falls] are a big problem worldwide,” said Wei Tech Ang, a lead researcher for the project and executive director of the Rehabilitation Research Institute of Singapore (RRIS). “The … intention was to help people walk around at home without the fear of falling down.”

Globally, falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, falls remain the leading cause of injury-related deaths among adults ages 65 and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows.

Ang became aware of that problem from personal experience. “My 85-year-old mother, she’s a frequent faller,” he said. “After she fell for the first time about 10 years ago, I started having this idea of creating a robot.”

Ang partnered with researchers at NTU Singapore and Tan Tock Seng Hospital to create and pilot the

robot. So far, the device has been only tested on 29 participants. They were patients who suffered from strokes, traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries.

During testing, which spanned three days per participant, the robot aided seniors with sitting, standing and walking. No falls were recorded during the trials, researchers said. (The results were announced this week.)

The team’s goal is to get regulatory approval for the device in major markets across the world, including the United States. They envision releasing two versions of the robot. One is a hospital version, outfitted with many high-end sensors and cameras that track an elderly person’s movements, and could cost around US$20,000. The other is an at-home version, which would either have fewer sensors and cameras in it or use lower-quality ones, and could go for about US$3,000, Ang said.

But the team faces a steep challenge. They need around US$4 million in initial funding just to get device approval from regulatory agencies in places like the United States, Europe, China and Singapore, Ang said. From there, they would need an additional US$10 million to US$20 million to get the device into market. “That is awfully difficult here,” he said.

Should that happen, researchers said, the effects could be significant and represent a way for robots to improve the lives of elderly people by giving them the feeling of independence.

“One of [the] key strategies is to empower patients,” Karen Chua, a co-developer of the mobility robot at NTU’s medical school said in a statement. “We want to make robotics therapies more sustainable and accessible in the community where our patients can lead healthier and happier lives.”

Source: The Washington Post





Video: The Cookie Robot

Watch video at You Tube (1:25 minutes) . . . . .

Robot Prints Custom Design Inside Drinks

Chris Albrecht wrote . . . . . . . . .

We’ve seen 3D printers create cake decorations, personalized vitamins, and even cultured beef. And now, thanks to Print a Drink’s robot, we’ve seen custom designs printed inside a cocktail. You might think such beverage witchcraft would be impossible. I mean, how could a design be suspended and hold its shape in anything other than a jello shot? Turns out it just takes the right drink, the right droplet and the precision of a robotic arm.

Based in Austria, Print a Drink has actually been around for three years. It was started by Benjamin Greimel as a university research project. Since that time, Print a Drink has created two working robots (one in the U.S. and one in Europe) that up until the pandemic would travel to special events and conferences printing out custom designs inside drinks at parties and such.

So how does it work? Print a Drink uses a robotic arm with a custom-made printer head attached to it. The robot uses a glass needle to inject a food-grade, oil-based liquid inside a drink. The drink itself needs to be less than 40 percent alcohol and can’t be a straight shot of something like vodka or whiskey because the injected beads won’t hold and will float to the surface. Greimel explained to me via video chat this week that the combination of liquid density, temperature and robotic movement allow the designs to last for roughly 10 minutes before dissipating.

Coordinating all those puzzle pieces is complicated to say the least. In addition to setting up the robot at an event and operating it, there are specific requirements around drinks that can be used, and designs need to be uploaded into the robot. Plus, there are safety concerns because the robotic arm does move about pretty quickly. Because of all those reasons, Print a Drink’s business has been around renting the robot ($2,500 – $5,000, depending on the event) and not selling them outright. In addition to all of the complications above, staff would need to be trained properly on how to use the machine, and chances are good that the people operating the devices are not roboticists who can troubleshoot.

To make Print a Drink more accessible, Greimel and his partner (the only two people at the company) have developed a smaller, self-contained version of the robot that is roughly the size of a countertop coffee machine. But don’t expect a consumer version for your next backyard soirée. This smaller version is still complicated, and still requires training, so the company is targeting large corporations like Disney or a hotel chain like Hilton where it could be installed and used for special events or promotions. Greimel said the first prototype of this smaller Print a Drink will be available in the next week.

Though more specialized, Print a Drink is part of a bigger automation movement happening with booze right now. In addition to robot-powered bars like Glacierfire popping up, we’re also seeing automated drink dispensing vending machines from Rotender and Celia start to hit the market. It’s not hard to see all of these types of robots working in tandem, however, with a robo-bartender pumping out standard cocktails, while Print a Drink prints up specialty drinks customized for special occasions. We’ll drink to that.

Source: The Spoon

Video: Cooking Robot

Watch video at You Tube (1:31 minutes) . . . . .

Video: Automatic Pizza Making System

The robotic pizza-maker automates the process of making a pizza.

With a single operator, it can top hundreds of customized pizzas per hour, each with different toppings, along with different sizes.

The system also reduces human contact with ingredients for safety and cleanliness.

Watch video at Picnic (2:06 minutes) . . . . .