Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

Archive for May 9th, 2012

We need Service Robots to feed disable students

6 comments

Dear Teresa, My name is Paul Doyle and I am Head of Access R&D at Hereward College in Coventry. Hereward is a residential college that supports disabled students. We have for some years developed a keen interest in the use of robotics as an assistive technology.

I have been in contact with many providers of robots over the years from the PR2 at Willow Garage to the Care-o-bot by Fraunhofer with little tangible progress. What we have failed to achieve to date is to embed and evaluate an actual device in a real care/living/education environment such as Hereward to see if it actually works and if it is financially viable!

I would like to challenge any robot for example to help with the scenario I posted recently on a Linkedin forum:

Today when I was having lunch in our refectory I observed a number of students (with a variety of physical disabilities) waiting in an orderly queue for a human career to help feed them their lunchtime meal. Due to a shortage of careers some of the students waited for a very long time before a staff member could ask what the student wanted from the menu, picked up the chosen meal from the counter and then fed the student in an appropriate manner (food at the right temperature consistency and rate).
This situation led me to ponder the questions could a robot have helped carry out these tasks to some degree, and bearing in mind the care staff are paid not much over minimum wage, when (if ever) will a robot alternative be a financially viable?”

I would hope manufacturers could see this exposure to a group of users as a development resource, as we have a residential care and education setting where such technologies can be tested in a managed and safe environment.

Many of the young people at Hereward will eventually be the recipients of assistive robot technologies if and when they come online, so hearing what they need/want would I imagine provide a useful insight to product developers.

Read the rest of this entry »