New Israeli Nursing Robots to Serve the Disabled

Researchers at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, are devising a nursing robot that will run errands, fetch objects, serve and even cook — in response to verbal commands, it was reported by the American Society for Technion.

When Johan Borenstein of the Robotics Department issues a firm two-word command: “Sink-move,” the robot model wheels across the room on its way to the sink. And when Borenstein issues the next instruction: “Home-move,” the model returns to his side.

Research in progress aims at the development of a sophisticated nursing robot, capable of performing varied tasks for the physically disabled — opening or closing a cupboard, window, or door, replacing a video cassette, or preparing simple dishes.

The nursing robot will comprise at least three major components: a self-propelled, computer-controlled carriage, the robot mounted on it, and a fixed source of radiation — either infrared or laser beams — to serve as a permanent reference point for the system’s frequent reorientation.

The carriage, equipped with sensors to help it avoid or overcome obstacles, will move in response to voice signals from the patient. Spoken commands will activate the robot arm and activate the robot arm and activate numerous possible tasks.

A direct telephone link will enable it to dial a number on request or if an emergency occurs and help is needed. The robot will “see” with an “eye” very similar in design to a camera rangefinder.

In spite of this system’s extensive capabilities, it is expected to be relatively inexpensive. Its developers’ target retail price is $10,000 and it is hoped that the project will be completed by the end of 1986.

“Israel is an ideal place for the development and export of robotic systems,” notes Prof. Yoram Koren, head of Technion’s Robotics Laboratory, “because software is at the heart of the system and we have a fund of the right sort of expertise in this field.”

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