As a given, some disabled people cannot perform daily tasks regularly. An amputee may not be able to even brush their teeth, or touch and hold objects, for example. On the other hand, conventional solutions such as prosthetics and service robots are expensive and difficult to control. What’s the solution?
Oh, what do we have hear? First, some interesting headgear, and next a robotic arm made out of wood? What could this combination possibly mean? People who are more familiar with neuroscience have probably heard of this nifty helmet. It’s called Emotiv Epoc, and it records a wide range of signals received from electrodes place on the scalp. But what do brainwaves have to do with robots?
Essentially, the goal is that people with disabilities can use Emotiv Epoc to control things without moving their bodies. In this context Emotive Epoc uses EMG (Electromyography) to pick up electrical signals through skeletal muscles. EMG is easier to translate than EEG (Electroencepholography) because it’s associated with physical motion; for example, lifting ones eyebrows makes the robot open the claw. There are other functions that are currently being controlled by a PlayStation 2 controller.
The robot itself is a cool arm in itself. It was made by researchers at Columbia University, with the goal of making an effective robot arm with a cost lower than $5,000. Thus, it is made of laser-cut wood, although the creators are considering using polycarbonate as an alternative as well. Everything else seems to be typical robot arm material, but one thing interesting is that evidently the robot gets better with practice.
From there, the total cost is currently $3,200. While better materials may increase the cost, overall this is much lower than provided by Medicare and Medicaid. So this robot has fulfilled the goal of being inexpensive while at the same time just being cool in itself, expanding more on the integration of the brain into robotics.
I seem to have issues embedding a video, so you should check it out here.