The use of remotely controlled mobile robots to offer a therapeutic experience to autistic children is wonderful idea. Further research in this area and more sophisticated AI routines could give rise to even better treatment programs for such children.
I agree, Greg - a good reminder of how power requirements often drive design strategies. It will be very interesting to watch the progress of mobile robots and the types of capabilities that will be integrated into their design as the constraints of current technology are pushed further and further out.
I think this is a wonderful application – Doornik's statement makes perfect sense to me: "In the robot's presence, a magical change occurs where intellect, physical appearance, abilities, or handicaps suddenly become unimportant. Such a therapeutic experience is made possible by the non-human attributes of the robot. His interlocutors are never placed in a situation where the children feel obliged to 'compare' themselves to the robot or be concerned with how the robot may perceive them."
We use our horses in therapeutic horse ministry for the very same reasons – with often miraculous results. I applaud any type of technology that can work to enhance the lives of these children!
There have been a few applications with a fairly standard robot on a platform able to move along a single linear axis of any length. That was for a robot that could follow the production line. Sort of a compromise between fixed and totally free. Power was from a hanging cable, 3-phase & about 8 amps. Way cheaper and simpler than a battery supply, and it was simple to program as one more axis. "Free range" robots are a whole different story, with a totally different set of applications. So the other important thing is that "free" robots probably would need to be made for those different applications, since the standard six-axis robot is simply not suitable for a large portion of what the fixed anchor robots would be doing.
Good point about how going mobile changes the design strategies for drives, power supplies, motors, etc. due to the use of low voltage DC components. This should produce advances in these areas as more low power mobile robots are designed.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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