Item on Robot Zora and other Healthcare Robots

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Veebot, a Design for a Robot that can Draw Blood

Er is een robot in de maak, in de US bij Stanford in de buurt, genaamd Veebot, die in de toekomst het bloed prikken grotendeels moet gaan automatiseren en de verpleegkundige moet ondersteunen bij het proces. Het idee is dat hierdoor bij het proces minder fout gaat, patiënten minder kans op schade hebben en de bijbehorende kosten daarmee dalen. Wat het apparaat zelf zou moeten gaan kosten is nog niet duidelijk. Het bedrijfje zelf, Veebot LCC, presenteert zijn ideeën wel op hun website maar treedt niet in details:

Here is a video report from PandoList about Veebot, from may 2012.

Meer nieuws hierover:

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CHRIS movie about robots cooperating with humans

A European Social Robotics project called CHRIS (Cooperative Human Robot Interaction Systems FP7 215805) has received its final review last april. They have also created a very nice video that summarizes their work:

As the video shows, the work is about safe cooperation and it includes the recognition of gesture (pointing), speech, actions, and objects. It is quite interesting to see the capabilities of a 18 month old human child compared to what a robot can do (not much). Perhaps that is due to the fact that kids never worry about hurting their parents. They just go for it, and their mother will let them know when they are doing something they should not. That is a pwerful learning strategy.

I think the CHRIS video shows nicely what Humanoid robots can and can not be expected to be able to do. Most robots will not be able to do everything the iCub or Bert2 can do. CHRIS is at the cutting edge.

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Robot Size Matters

Size. With robots, does size matter? One might say size matters little if it works well and performs the job it was designed to do. From an engineering perspective one might even add ‘the smaller the better’ or ‘the cheaper the better’. But from a psychological perspective it may be very important how big a robot is. In the social interaction with humans a big robot may function differently than a small one. Big impresses, big attracts attention, big frightens. Small endears, small puts at ease. Those are just some associations that we should think about studying closer.

An interesting ongoing experiment with size is the work of Hajime Sakamoto and his Hajime Research Institute (a Japanese company building humanoid robots). He plans to build larger and larger robots that can walk on two feet, eventually ending up with a ´Gundam´ robot that can seat a human (co)pilot, as featured in the famous SF-cartoons (of which Hajime is a fan). A fairly recent prototype can be seen in the following movie:

Recent progress reported here by PlasticPals.

Another nice example of the effect of a big robot size is the fake robot Titan, see the movie below. He attracts a lot of attention, and scares people a little, but also puts them at ease quickly by using humour.

The very small robots, like Keepon, are perhaps relying partly on their smallness to endear people and to easily establish contact with people. An interesting thought experiment is to imagine a really big Keepon, say 1.50m, trying to interact with a five year old autistic boy. Do you think it will be just as succesful as the small one? I do not think so. Or imagine a 2m Paro robot ‘baby’ seal. Hmmm, that might actually have an effect similar to that of those giant teddy bears you can win at fairs. Holding them in your lap would be difficult though.

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Panasonic Presents 3 Care Robots at Tokyo’s HCRE

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Posted in Activities of daily living (ADL), Persoonlijke verzorging, Telepresence Robots, Touching People | Leave a comment

The ARTAS™ System, a hair surgeon’s assistant

Here is an interesting new robotic surgery assistant: the ARTAS™ System. It was recently cleared by the FDA (read more). ARTAS apparently helps with something called ‘hair follicle harvesting’, according to Restoration Robotics, the company that invented and produces the system.

The ARTAS System

The ARTAS System (Source: Restoration Robotics, Inc.)

The procedure is as follows. The client first sits in the Artas chair, and then his hair is millimetered. Then, a robotic arm equipped with a camera initiates ‘small dermal punches’ and harvests individual follicles. This is under the control of a doctor. The follicles, which are later transplanted by hand, will start producing their own hair over months.

Here is a paper (PDF) in the Dermatology Times that reports the results of trying out a prototype of the device. Apparently, no sutures or bandages were required and using ARTAS is quicker and less invasive than other hair transplantation techniques, like strip harvesting where a strip of skin with hair is transplanted to a balding area. The company expects to reach extraction rates to 750 to 1,000 follicular units per hour. In addition, it may require fewer staff (although robot support engineers should probably be on standby).

Read more:

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Science Update: How Do People Respond to Being Touched by a Robot?

A very interesting, ‘social robotics’ study recently gave us all some nice resultats. Apparently people do not always appreciate being touched by a robot.

Somewhat surprisingly the results from one of the experiments showed that it matters why the robot touches you. If people think (because they are told) that it is because they will be washed then that is okay, but if the robot touched someone to comfort them then they found it much less agreeable, even though the touch movement was exactly the same. Apparently instrumental touching is more acceptable than social touching. And the perceived intention is what matters, according to one the researchers, Charlie Kemp. However, if you compare this result to the positive responses generally reported with the huggable robot Paro, then I think that this result may depend to a large extent on the actual appearance and exact behaviour of the robot. In this case the apperance and behaviour of the robot, Cody, may have created a mismatch with an intention to provide a comforting touch. In other words, the robot does not look like or act like it is designed to provide a comforting touch, it looks like it is designed to clean people (which is exactly what it was designed for).

In addition, the results showed that people did not like it if the robot announced that it was going to touch them, perhaps, as indicated by the researchers, because the voice startled them. Here, I think it is very important how a robot speaks exactly. If it speaks with a moving mouth and facial gestures, then this comes across as if the voice is coming from the robot. If a robot has a face and mouth that are able to ‘speak’ then people may actually expect a voice. But, if a robot speaks ‘out of nowhere’, for example if it merely plays a soundbite through a speaker, then this can easily startle people. It is a disembodied voice. So, again I think that follow-up experiments should be done to provide more conclusive results (as also suggested by the researchers). In a way this resembles the previous critical remark: the robot does not look like it was designed to talk to people so it may come across as a mismatch if it does talk.

But, all in all, this sort of research is very useful and more of it is needed to support the succesful introduction of healthcare robotics.

The original paper, presented at the HRI 2011 conference can be downloaded here
Science News Blog wrote a decent summary as well: Study Investigates How People Respond to Being Touched by a Robot.

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ICSR 2011, the 2nd International Conference on Social Robotics

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Kaspar, a news update about a robot for autistic children

A nice story was in the news today (Washington Examiner): Kaspar the friendly robot helps autistic kids.

Ben Robins, a researcher who has already done a lot of work studying how robots might benefit children with autism, is quoted as saying:

“Children with autism don’t react well to people because they don’t understand facial expressions,” said Ben Robins, a senior research fellow in computer science at the University of Hertfordshire who specializes in working with autistic children. “Robots are much safer for them because there’s less for them to interpret and they are very predictable.”

The article neatly decribes the current state of the science behind the idea that social robots can help autistic children to learn and train certain social skills (basically, there are promising case studies, but a long-term effect study is lacking). And it mentions the opinions of various researchers, in the field and outside of it, on the merits of the work with Kaspar (which has been ongoing since 2005).

I also found a nice BBC video from 2008 about Kaspar and Robins and others’ work:

And there is a long, Japanese documentary about Kaspar and the work of Robins et al.

For those with a mind for reading, check out papers on the work with Kaspar AND Robins, or you can browse Robins’ extensive publication list.

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PopSci article about robots and autism

There is a very interesting featured article on PopSci called The New Face of Autism Therapy. It highlights the use of a robot called Bandit that has been ‘designed to engage children with autism’.


Bandit, a robot designed to engage children with autism. Photo by John B. Carnett

The reader comments are also interesting and many are made by people with autism or by parents of children with autism.

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