The National Institute of Health (NIH) has announced that it will fund the development of three co-robots, or robots that work cooperatively with people, as part of its fourth year of participation in the National Robotics Initiative (NRI). In addition to the NIH, the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Defense are supporting the development of co-robots.
The three innovative co-robots being supported by NIH are:
The robot has two modes: smart power-assist walker and smart mule. In the smart power-assist walker mode, the user is situated within the robot and chooses the amount of powered assistance that is needed. In the smart mule mode, the robot walks alongside the user while carrying a load, for example groceries. The robot uses a 3-D computer vision-based sensing system to detect the user’s motion and the environment. With its smart legs, the robot is able to easily overcome environmental obstacles in ways that powered wheelchairs cannot.
2. A hand-worn device to help visually impaired grasp objects. This will help the visually impaired travel independently and navigate more successfully. The research on device is lead by Dr. Cang Ye at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.
This project proposes to create a hand-worn assistive device that uses computer vision to identify target objects in a user’s environment, determine misalignment between the user’s hand and the object, and then convey — via natural human-device interfaces — the hand motion needed to grasp the object.
3. A social-robot companion for kids that is intended to help positively influence a child’s mental health, academic achievement, and well-being. This work on this social robot directed by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The goal of this project is to create an autonomous, long-term social robotic companion for children that will promote and assess curiosity and a growth mindset through various interactions. After developing the robot, the researchers plan to evaluate its influence by conducting a six-month longitudinal study in which children learn and play while interacting with the robot companion.
Read more about the NIH’s participation in the National Robotics Initiative here.