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News Link • Inventions

Rise of the Helpful Machines

• Corey Binns via PopSci
A Forklift For Humans
BirthplaceInstitute of Physical and Chemical Research, Japan

OccupationHelps patients who are too weak to walk, sit, or stand on their own

Why We Need ItThe number of Americans over age 65 will reach 71 million by 2030. RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) is the only robot with arms designed to carry those people around.

How It WorksA powerful motor, plus 454 sensors embedded in RIBA’s arms, helps the robot lift and move people weighing up to 135 pounds. (Inventor Toshiharu Mukai and his colleagues aim to increase its strength next year when they test it in nursing homes in Japan.) For a comfortable ride, squishy skin made of urethane foam covers RIBA’s metallic frame. The robotic orderly can also recognize faces and voices and responds to commands such as, “RIBA, please help me off the couch.”

The Only Wheelchair with Robotic Arms
BirthplaceUniversity of Pittsburgh

OccupationNurse: transports and feeds patients with spinal-cord injuries

Why We Need ItToday 4.3 million Americans rely on wheelchairs, yet few of those chairs are ideal for people with debilitating physical impairments, such as those of a quadriplegic.

How It WorksAfter Rory A. Cooper was partially paralyzed during a bicycle accident, he learned firsthand the limitations of conventional wheelchairs. Although he still had the use of his arms, many other paralyzed people he met did not. So he set out to build them a better chair. His Personal Mobility and Manipulation Appliance (PerMMA) features two robotic arms programmed to help users easily perform everyday tasks like cooking, dressing and shopping. Users can control the robotic arms from a touchpad, microphone or joystick, depending on their abilities. For now, each arm can support six pounds, but Cooper is designing a new arm strong enough to hold 150 pounds, pull a turkey out of the oven, or pick up a pot of spaghetti off the stove, he says.

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