These days, robots come in every shape and size -- and even change shape -- for a wide range of purposes, from helping autistic kids to swarming into a sensor network in a war zone. Some robots are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, while others are more than two stories tall.
Zeno helps diagnose autism and can also provide therapy to autistic kids. Soldiers are now aided by a carrier robot that helps with the growing burden of equipment that they need in combat.
There's a stainless-steel robot that helps in drug research, and Japanís growing elder population has prompted the development of a wide range of helper robots for hospitals and home care. One will wash your hair, some will dispense your medications, another will communicate with your doctor.
Click on the photo below to see just how advanced these bots have become.
The RI-MAN was designed to look after the elderly. It was specifically engineered to lift and carry humans. The 5-ft, 220-lb RI-MAN includes sensors that allow it to see, hear, touch, and smell. (Source: Bio-Mimetic Control Research Center)
For decades, robots have completed repetitive human tasks in automotive factory lines. Now robots are getting a crack at more sophisticated human tasks such as administer drugs and washing the hair of hospital patients.
Not sure about having a robot care for me while I'm drooling in my oatmeal at the nursing home. I'm thinking there are a number of disgusting cleanup tasks that the nursing staff would like to pass on to the new robotic staff.... So please if you are developing a robot - make sure it has gentle hands.
Droid, it's true that the things we ask health care workers to do are considered disgusting. But, the robots can help keep nurses and staff safe and healthy. Lifting hundreds of pounds of dead weight to check for bedsores, change a bad pan or transfer a patient from a bed to a wheelchair causes thousands of back injuries every year.
Robots working with people could be a good solution for end of life care.
Those are great examples of what is out there Rob...
It looks like the current batch of sophisticated robots are mostly specialized in very narrow tasks. The hospital helpers come to mind... One washes hair, another admins drugs, another lifts in and out of bed. In a few years that will likely change. But how many jobs will be lost to a small fleet of HC Robots once they can do it all? Stay tuned I guess.
On another note... It's not that simple a thing to program bots for the unexpected. We have a new 400 ton press that is off loaded by an industrial Fanuc 6 axis LR Mate 200ic.
After certain types of faults or maintenance events it will some times attempt to commit suicide if the exact sequence of buttons is not pressed during restart. What it does is rapid into the press when the press is not expecting it. The light curtain is all that saves the robot from being terminated...
It has done this 2 nights in a row now. It's being looked into by the machine builder's code guys.
I am resisting hanging a 'Terminator' name tag on the control panel cause... no one will be laughing if it finds a coded loophole around the light curtain.
Back to the HC Bots... Take care when restarting after a fault... I wouldn't want my Depends (or anything else for that matter) on/in the wrong end.
Thanks for the thought Rob, but we are just now getting to run this piece at night. The 2 day shift operators are engineers and they are inside the debug loop. I may not even be told when it is fixed. It may just stop happening one day night.
The day guys have seen this a few times too though so 'we' didn't discover anything new. New machines are frequently slowly developing list of action items... This is a big one in my mind.
Yes, this does sound like a big one, Ralphy Boy. It would be a good story to tell at Design News -- to illustrate what can go wrong, how it can be fixed, and how safety worked when things went haywire.
The problem seems to lie in that the press has a control panel and controller, and the robot has its own controller and control panel. Both AB, but I suspect that the robot does not have to ask permission before entering the press's work space. So, if it gets out of sequence it can dive right in if it decides to. Then the press e-stops until you remove the bot.
The problem for us (me and the night operator) is that it requires a password and more pendant knowledge than we have at the moment in order to back the robot out. So, we ended 2 nights with the robot inside the press. Imagine that kind'a scenario in a healthcare situation...
Yes, Ralphy Boy, the malfunction of a medical robot -- whether it's one that cares for patents or one that assists in operations -- is not a pleasant thought. Robot malfunction a disturbing enough that it has been depicted in numerous movies.
Quite a few years ago I designed a robot system to load a connecting rod trim press. The operation was one of the more dangerous, since sometimes it took both hands to place the part correctly in the trim die. The robot and the press controllers did need to handshake, which was in this case set s of contacts connected to digital inputs. Thee were two in each direction, one being a request for motion and the other being a request for the other to wait. The system worked quite well, and it was possibly the most welcomed of any system that I have created. The press operators loved it, the safety team loved it, the managers loved it because it increased production, and the union loved it because it simply moved the operators job out of the danger zone. The operator was assigned to place the con-rods onto a conveyer inswtead of placing them into the trim die.
Thank you Rob for the great slide show. Robotic systems seem to be more and more life-like as the years go by. I am surprised at how the Japanese have chosen to investigate usage of the "bots" relative to their ageing population. My father is in an assisted living complex and I can certainly see applications in that facility especially for mundane tasks such as picking up and delivering laundry, bringing meals, possibly in bringing medications, etc etc. I feel quite confident that this important technology will eventually be applied in that fashion here in the "states". Again, excellent slide show.
Thanks Bobjengr. You can bet we'll see these robots show up in the U.S. if they're successful in Japan. And they'll show up for the same reason robots are successful in industry -- they reduce labor costs.
While servant and helper robots are certainly able to be a real benefit, there is an area for great caution, which is outside interference. Based on my daily getting attempts to hijack my computer for unknown purposes it is clear that lots of individuals would cause all kinds of problems if they were allowed to get through. And we just know that most of these will have wireless communications added if they don't already have it. And we also know that there is no such thing as truely secure wireless communication, at least not for more than a few hours. So there certainly needs to be some reliable manual non-hackable means to switch them off.
And for that warfighter robot shooting "harmless BBs", they may not hurt much at 100 FPS, but that same BB at 1500 FPS or more is quite deadly. And at the military velocity of about 2500FPS they are even more dangerous. Note that I am only challenging the description, not the product. BUt a relatively slow moving large robot just does not seem to me to be very invincable. I could easily knock it out with an ordinary car. One hit at 65MPH and the robot is damaged. And a radio controlled car is current technology.
Rob, at the higher velocities a round object creates a shock wave that also rips tissue apart in an expanding cone shape. Of course the small mass of the .177 cal BBs delivers a lot less energy than the larger calibers, but consider that the standard NATO issue was .222 caliber for many years. Of course, that is a lot more mass, but those are serious military bullets designed to do lots of damage. The one "nicer" thing about BBs is that they don't tumble as they pass through. But at higher velocities they can still make a nasty mess.
The danger of the BB spewing robot depends a whole lot on the velocity of the BBs. At 100FPS they would still be an eye hazard, and at lesser speeds they would more likely be a tripping hazard. But at a thousand feet per second they can start to do real damage. After all E= MV**2
The Kuratas robot from Suidobashi Heavy Industry has a smile detection mode to fire the BB gun. The female model demonstrating it cracked up and couldn't stop smiling, it was like the ED-209 blazing away at the corporate exec in Robocop.
... off a useless eater would be to deny them physical movement and social interaction. I sure hope we find a more honoring way to utilize robots than have them replace humans in caring for the heritage-carrying elderly.
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This year, Design News is getting a head start on the Fourth of July celebration. In honor of our country and its legacy of engineering innovation -- in all of its forms -- we are taking you on an alphabetical tour through all 50 states to showcase interesting engineering breakthroughs and historically significant events.
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