Your Friday ‘robot fix’

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”175″ /]EU Robotics Week last week had over 300 separate events all over the region (including Macedonia and Malta!) to popularize robotics to the general public and to stimulate education in the STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and math). eHealthNews picked five EU-funded projects as ‘cool’ across several assistive technologies: RoboHow (learning tasks from instructions or human example); the RADHAR intelligent wheelchair; Stiff-Flop (a surgical robot ‘arm’ modeled after an elephant trunk; ROBOFOOT (for use in footwear manufacture); and the STRANDS robot project which is being used during a challenge to patrol a populated environment. STRANDS robots (left) are designed to have cognitive/learning ability and are being tested on site, according to the article, in a care home for the elderly in Austria (assisting human carers), and in an office environment patrolled by a security firm in the UK (BBC News England 28 August). These all seem to be variations on AT themes, and we note that eHealthNews didn’t choose any clinical/telepresence ‘bots, but one wonders what happened to the MOBISERVE/Kompaï companion robot [TTA 23 Aug].

An update on the MOBISERV Kompaï project takes some flak

A long (and in need of editing), anodyne article on the European tech website Cordis updating the status of the EU/UK robotics project known as MOBISERV and the Kompaï companion robot, has generated a bit of controversy in the mHealth LinkedIn group (membership required). Group manager David Doherty, better known for his mHealthInsight (3GDoctor) website, objects to the design, the time and funds spent on it, and more. To summarize his points:

  • It’s a waste of money on a device and R&D which could have been used on more targeted solutions to real problems
  • A ‘touch screen robo-vehicle’ may not be usable by an older person who has trouble with smartphones or tablets for cognitive or mobility reasons
  • Mobile and other companies are already surpassing the EU project in both innovation and R&D in the job to be done; example Samsung’s gesture control and the LiquidWeb Brain Control brain interface from Italy. (And the ever-popular speech recognition in the here-and-now)
  • It’s a closed system versus open innovation, where other developers especially those on Kickstarter build in access (SDK–software development kits). Example is Romo, the small wheeled desk robot for the iPhone. (However, Editor Steve in his coverage of Kompaï in early days reported that its SDK is open source TTA 4 May 10)

We will leave side-taking to our readers, but David’s points are strongly worth considering, as this project has taken at least four years and perhaps more, and funding–who knows? (Editor Donna notes that Editor Steve followed Kompaï since 2010 in articles such as Kompaï by Kompaï, the Dutch TV video, and experiments in gesture-based control for those with strokes and similar impairments.)