From the kitchen to the metro, new robotic systems designed to assist the elderly, people with disabilities
Many new robots look less like the metal humanoids of pop culture and more like high-tech extensions of ourselves and our capabilities.
In the same way eyeglasses, wheelchairs, pacemakers and other items enable people to see and move more easily in the world, so will many cutting-edge robotic systems. Their aim is to help people be better, stronger and faster. Further, due to recent advances, most are far less expensive than the Six Million Dollar Man.
Greater access to assistive technologies is critical as the median age of the U.S. population rises. Already, there is an enormous need for such tools.
“The number of people with partial impairments is very large and continues to grow,” says Conor Walsh, a roboticist at Harvard University who is developing soft robotics technologies. “For example, these include people who are aging or have suffered a stroke. Overall, about 10 percent of individuals living in the U.S. have difficulty walking. That’s a tremendous problem when you think about it.”
Walsh and other researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) are working in labs across the country to ensure these technologies not only exist, but are reliable, durable, comfortable and personalized to users.