How far are we from having robots as assistive devices?

10/29/2012
PR2 robot from Willow Garage

PR2 robot from Willow Garage (source: http://www.willowgarage.com)

One of the most interesting technologies emerging in the area of consuming services has to do with robotics. Currently, there are a number of cases where robots are used to serve people in specific situations. Such an example is a company based in South Korea named KIST has led the development of a humanoid teaching robot called Erki, which has been under trial for more than a year now as an assistant in primary school teaching. Using robots as assistants in public places can be quite challenging. There are a number of issues to take under account apart from the interface and the communication of the robot with humans. For example, how will the robot operate in a situation where a group of students try to vandalize it, what happens when a part of the robot breaks down, how often and how long does it need to be recharged? Read the rest of this entry »


Make AT not war!

10/22/2012

The title might seem a bit strange but this post has to do with… war. Maybe not war itself but military in general.

It’s been years now that the military all over the world tries to make the most out of soldiers supporting them with exoskeletons. In the US for example the Berkley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX) developed by UC Berkley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory Homayoon Kazerooni aims to “create an exoskeleton that combines a human control system with robotic muscle”. The project was funded by DARPA and in 2004 and at that time it was the most advanced exoskeleton. UC Berkley is also behind of another newer military exoskeletons as well titled Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC). HULC incorporates features from two other models of Berkley Robotics the ExoHiker and ExoClimber which were designed for carrying heavy loads during long missions and climbing stairs and steep slopes rapidly. Another DARPA funded project was the Sarcos exoskeleton which recently was improved by Raytheon to a newer stronger faster and better model titled XOS2. This exoskeleton, much like the Berkeley suit, works much like a human nervous system. A complex set of sensors act as nerves and hydraulics act as muscles.

The same lab has recently presented a new exoskeleton system called eLEGS aiming to help paraplegics and those with mobility disorder to stand and walk. eLEGS was selected as number 2 of the 10 Most significant Gadgets of 2010 by WIRED magazine. Read the rest of this entry »


Crowdsourcing for accessibility.

10/15/2012

Logo of Blog Action Day 2012 - "The power of we"This year’s blog action day is dedicated to the power of WE. Given this bolg’s focus on accessibility I can see many ways that we can help for accessibility. Sometimes even without knowing about it. The story of CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA that follows is just an example of such a case.

CAPTCHA which is an abbreviation for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart is something that most of us have come across in our web browsing. It’s a picture with a set of words presented in a distorted way that aims to tell humans from computers apart. It is usually found in cases where developers want to avoid spamming.

However, as successful as CAPTCHAs might be in avoiding spamming in various cases they are also very successful in preventing people with disabilities to comment, respond, and use whatever feature is protected by a CAPTCHA. How could a blind person see and understand what is written in an image which doesn’t have and alternative text? How could a persons with dyslexia and other print disabilities use them? Read the rest of this entry »


In the meantime… (#4)

10/11/2012

While waiting for the next monday post I’d like to turn your attention to a couple of interesting sources/articles that I’ve recently discovered.

The first is an article in ReadWriteWeb which explains how the Boomers generation is going to play a significant role in new technologies and their adoption in the future since in the US alone it is predicted to reach over 50% of the population until 2030. One might think… “and what this story tells us about accessibility?”. Well at first sight you might not realize that the buying power of that population will force markets to think about them more seriously. Read the rest of this entry »


Not now mom, I’m on the class… the virtual one!

10/08/2012
Image of a virtual reality classroom

Virtual reality classroom
Source (http://www.dipity.com/brianne/personal/)

This week we are revisiting once again education. We already talked about collaborative learning and how ICT helps in that process in a previous post.

Another interesting trend in CSCL is the use of virtual worlds and gaming. Currently, there is a variety of applications on the web offering educational virtual worlds for kids that require children to complete projects and tasks, play games and throughout this process learn a variety of subjects. Read the rest of this entry »


My grandma and her smart home.

10/01/2012
Elderly woman using a tablet

Elderly woman using a tablet
(source: http://www.ashvillesmarthomes.com/)

Well, I wish that my grandma was living in a smart home but she doesn’t and this post is going to briefly discuss some of the challenges why smart homes for health services for elderly are not yet an everyday reality and what needs to be done to get there.

An area with interesting results in monitoring services is this of smart homes. In the past technologies for smart homes meant that a set of sensor would have to be wired into the house. This installation was a problem since it meant drilling holes into walls, Read the rest of this entry »


%d bloggers like this: