Robotic Man Friday

A robot will now allow disabled people to become independent of helpers at work and at home

Published: Sunday 15 December 1996

-- (Credit: Viswojyoti)A ROBOT clerk that can turn pages, load fax machines, staple documents, put office rubbish in bins and open cans has gone on trial with severely disabled people in the uk. Currently on trail at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, the us $5,0000 pc system can be controlled by a joystick on the wheelchair, which has a two-way infrared link.

At the centre of the workstation system, called raid (Robot for Assisting the Integration of the Disabled), is an extended robotic arm. It can lift up to four kilograms of any object and rotate it through several axis.

By using a pneumatic tool-changer and different heads, raid can cope up with a variety of tasks. A general-purpose gripper can be used to handle disks, drinks in glasses or cans and other objects. A suction cup is used for handling cds. The robot can take a book from a shelf of 18 volumes of different sizes, put them on the reader board and slip to the required page. It can also move and load cd-Roms and floppy disks. Any standard pc accessory, such as a printer or scanner, can also be operated.

Nine of the workstations are now on trial in uk, France and Sweden. The target group for the system is wheelchair users who have insufficient manipulation capability for operating computer workstations unaided but who are able to manipulate a basic input device like a joystick, rollerball or click a switch.

The workstation should allow the user to become independent for a whole day's work. It also allows them to be independent at home and perhaps continue with their education or just sit for a few hours a day reading a book and listening to music without the need of a helper to turn the page or change a cd.

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