A low-cost robotic arm for consumer applications

Carbon Robotics

We are building a low-cost robotic arm that empowers people who currently require long-term care to continue living independently.

In the US alone, more than 12 million people require long-term care due to illness, disability, or advanced age. As they become unable to look after themselves, assistance can include anything from help navigating the environment to completing basic tasks like maintaining personal hygiene and eating. This takes a personal toll on the individuals who suffer reduced quality of life and also has significant economic impact. Currently, long-term care accounts for 9.3% of all personal health care spending in the US.

Since most people requiring long-term care are elderly, our aging population has a huge effect on these numbers. In the US, approximately 63% are all people requiring long-term care are over 65, and 30% have substantial long-term care needs. This trend is rapidly accelerating. By 2050, 1.5B people (or 16% of the world’s population) will be over 65. Caring for this many people and allowing them to retain independence requires significant leaps in our robotic capabilities. With our current technology, we are ill-equipped to face these societal and economic challenges, let alone provide the quality of life that each individual deserves.

Robotic arms are the perfect tools for enabling people to regain their independence. They have long been prized in manufacturing for their unrivalled precision, repeatability, and versatility where they play an instrumental role in making the products we buy, the clothes we wear, and the cars we drive. In fact, anything a human arm can do, a robotic arm can probably do better.

The problem is that they are prohibitively expensive and usually quite difficult to use. The cheapest robotic arms today are still more than $20k and generally require specialized knowledge to perform anything beyond the most basic tasks.

We are also just beginning to see industrial robotic arms adapted to assistive situations. Some companies have recently demonstrated attaching a robotic arm to a power wheelchair to assist people with upper body disabilities. The arm is controlled using a joystick and is capable of opening doors, retrieving items from shelves, and even enabling people to eat and drink without assistance. However, those arms cost 10x more than the chairs to which they attach.

We believe that everyone should have access to advanced automation no matter what their circumstances. This is why we’ve made KATIA. Our low-cost robotic arm that makes fully independent living a reality. KATIA has the capabilities of an industrial arm, but the price and usability of a laptop.

KATIA can be mounted to an electric wheelchair to serve as a virtual prosthetic arm that accompanies the person at all times, helping interact in both home and work environments. KATIA can pick items off the floor, assist in personal grooming, and perform any number of tasks that would normally require assistance from a caregiver. For tasks that are repetitive or out of reach, additional KATIAs can be bolted to stations and operated remotely, so that individuals have even greater control over their environments. 

We’ve designed KATIA to be simple and intuitive to control, regardless of your physical capabilities. At the most basic level, KATIA can be manually guided through a motion that it plays back flawlessly. For direct control in realtime, customers can draw paths for the arm to follow using our mobile application, simulate gestures through peripheral devices like a Kinect and Leap Motion, or operate direct positional control with a 3d mouse. People without the use of their limbs can also coordinate with myoelectric sensors and integrate with voice recognition software to have KATIA perform pre-programmed tasks. For more autonomous control, applications can be loaded onto KATIA’s powerful embedded computer and extended with add-on sensor modules and external integrations.

At Carbon Robotics, safety is our guiding principle and KATIA is the safest robotic arm ever built. We’ve invented a technology that turns the entire housing into a giant capacitive sensor that can detect a person from 0 to 60cm away in any direction, from anywhere on the robot. Our sensor has no blindspots or pinch points and works automatically with no setup or calibration necessary. This means we can reliably detect collisions long before they happen and avoid them altogether.

By tapping into children’s creativity and using everyday objects lying around the house, Dubai-based startup Junkbot’s DIY robot kit aims to create inventors in every home

Junkbot’s CEO Ehtesham P.A.

 

When you think of recycling a plastic bottle, most people don’t imagine turning it into a robot. But one Dubai-based startup wants to make trash into treasure and help children grasp the basics of how to build a robot to boot.

Aimed at children from six-years-old and up, Junkbot is a small kit that contains basic electronic components, such as a gear wheel, brushless motors and a battery. The kit spurs children to tap into their creativity and add everyday unwanted junk to complete the item – a DIY robot. The only limit, says Junkbot’s CEO Ehtesham P.A., is their imagination.

“While building these robots, children get to learn the basics of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” says Ehtesham. “[But] it also teaches students about recycling, showing them they have things in the home which can be used to do something creative.” Junkbots can be made of anything, from old ice cream tubs, CDs and even shoes, he explains. The resulting robots can then be controlled by any TV remote or even smartphones.

With pre-seed funding from Dubai-based business accelerator Turn8, and then more support from German startup accelerator Hardware.co, Junkbot has developed two robot kits. The starter kit ($100) is for a robot pre-programmed to perform basic tasks such as following a line you draw and avoiding obstacles. The programmable kit ($150) encourages analytical thinking, problem solving and lateral thinking. The company is currently doing the final industrial design for the kits, according to Ehtesham.

“With the programmable [kit] you can build different robots, such as a vacuum cleaner robot… a robot which feeds your pet, or a music board which plays your favourite song when you enter the room,” says Ehtesham. “Most children and parents think robotics is something very difficult, but when they see Junkbot and the product they feel confident this is something they can do, that anyone can do.”

The fledgling business is attracting attention from many quarters. So far Junkbot has almost 500 kits on pre-order, with interest mainly from the US and Europe, and venture capitalists in Russia and Kuwait are circling. Junkbot hopes to build on this momentum through a crowdfunding campaign to raise $300,000, which is set to launch in two months’ time. Junkbot plans to start delivery of the kits some six months down the line, after the crowdfunding round.

“[The] programmable kit will also have an online interface, so there will be a lot of apps that can be downloaded to the Junkbot and make it perform as a different robot. Taking it further, we want to convert the online platform into a place where designers, children – whoever – can come and submit ideas that we potentially help them manufacture,” says Ehtesham. “Our vision with Junkbot is to create inventors in every home.”

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has made a New Year’s resolution to build an AI robot that controls his house.

In previous years, he has shared his resolutions on Facebook, from the every day: ‘read two books a month’ to the challenging: ‘learn Mandarin’.

For 2016, he said he plans to build “a simple AI to run my home and help me with my work. You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man.”

According to a report on the BBC, Zuckerberg plans to share his progress over the course of the year and said he would teach his robot to understand his voice and control everything in his home from music and lights to temperature.

His early objectives are to automatically recognise house guests and to monitor his newborn daughter when he is not with her.

“This should be a fun intellectual challenge to code this for myself,” he said. Perhaps he may even develop something that could be entered into the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good?

IEEE

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OSU

We propose taking the last 50 years of robotics research and packing it into a small package that can be mounted on a powered wheelchair to provide self-driving capabilities. 

Users will attach the package to their wheelchairs, plug it into the batteries and the chair control electronics. Then, using the system, they will be able to build maps of their homes and offices to navigate around these spaces autonomously. The wheelchair user will be able to use a variety of input devices to specify where they go, depending on their particular physical needs: on-screen map, eye-gaze into the world, voice commands, etc. The wheelchair will then take care of the rest.

We further propose to take a subset of this functionality and put it in a package that can be added to the Go Baby Go cars, allowing improved driving experience and autonomous data collection capabilities. In both cases, our system will dramatically improve the quality of life of tens of thousands of individuals around the world with severe motor disabilities, making them more independent, happier, and healthier.

Why improve a wheelchair? Why not develop more natural systems, like exoskeletons?  The answer to these questions is twofold.  Firstly, most people with severe motor disabilities already have powered wheelchairs. If we can provide a low-cost package that adds self-driving capabilities to these chairs, all of these people can take advantage of it for a minimal cost.

The second reason is that the people who stand to benefit most from this technology, those who are locked-in and cannot move their bodies at all, will find it hard to effectively use exoskeletons (as they are currently designed). To reach the most people in the shortest time, self-driving wheelchairs are the technology of choice.

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Our work also extends to young children with motor disabilities. Working with Dr Sam Logan and the Go Baby Go project at Oregon State University, we are adapting the technology on the chair to work with low-cost toy cars that are used as motorised wheelchairs for young children. 

There is growing evidence to show that moving about the world and interacting within it and with peers, is a vital part of early childhood development. Children with severe motor disabilities cannot easily do this and this leads to cognitive, social, and language delays. By giving these children the ability to move we can help them avoid these developmental delays and thrive with their typically-abled peers as well as create a dataset that will help clinicians significantly improve their understanding of early childhood motor disabilities and will ultimately, lead to better treatments.

The next generation of robotics engineers are already being nurtured by a Dubai-based organisation who is making sure they have fun to boot

Children using robotics

 

Getting children interested in science subjects can seem as hard as getting them to eat their greens. But one Dubai-based organisation has a new ruse: using the chance to build and play with robots to spark interest in the science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) subjects that underpin how robotics work.

The first specialised robotics centre in Dubai, Fun Robotics aims to get children aged seven to 14-years-old to learn mechanical and electrical concepts, as well as programming and design, over the course of a 15-hour or two week programme.

Crucially, Fun Robotics hopes to make children see that science is exciting. By getting kids to build their own robots and solve problems, the centre aims to unleash youngsters’ natural creativity and nurture a life-long love of STEM-related subjects.

“Robotics will be one of the most important careers in the future,” says Lubna Taji, founder of Fun Robotics. “In the future I think it will be essential for everyone to know how robots move or interact; the main things that make them sense things and how to programme them.”

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So far around 100 children have experienced Fun Robotics’ programmes. The courses range from attaching simple sensors and motors to robots for the youngest category (7-year-olds), renewable energy and pneumatics for ‘Advanced Machine Wiz’ students (10-year-olds) to teaching text-based programming in the Robot C course using LEGO Mindstorms kits (14-year-olds and up). Most of the centre’s students so far have been in the younger age categories, between seven and 11-years-old, says Taji.

To keep children engaged, Fun Robotics has participated in regional robot competitions since 2012, including the UAE National Robotics Challenge – the qualifying round for the World Robot Olympiad, a LEGO Mindstorms-based robotics competition.

Last year’s team won a prize in the regular category at junior high level under the theme Robots in Space. Ibrahim Abedelrahman, 12, and Karan Tulsani, 13, represented Fun Robotics with their robot, Sputnik, designed to collect space debris. Taji hopes to repeat the success at this year’s challenge in September, this time under the theme Robot Explorers. 

Smart Guidance team

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. Additionally, about 90% of the world’s visually impaired live in low-income settings. 

 

Blind people have problems in walking or navigating independently. As such, aides have looked to solve this issue. The most widely used is a white cane; it is a useful tool, but it has certain drawbacks such as small radius and struggle to detect objects on the ground. The other solution is guide dogs, but it is quite expensive and not easily available in developing countries where most blind people live. 

The main objective of our project is to develop a wearable, cost-effective, efficient and independent smart guidance system that will assist the blind in avoiding obstacles, identifying places or objects and navigating from one place to another. 

We define this as alternative perception. That is to say, using devices to sense the environment and present the blind with meaningful information about their surroundings, allowing them to navigate the area with ease. 

We have decided to utilise the Kinect unit for this project. It is a motion sensing input device developed by Microsoft for the Xbox video game. It consists of an IR depth sensor and RGB camera. The IR depth sensor is used to obtain the depth image data of the environment. This sensor is quite powerful and can provide valuable image data to be processed to extract useful information for the blind people. 

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One setback to the Kinect unit is that the floor itself may be detected as an obstacle. To overcome this limitation we have developed an algorithm that can differentiate between the floor and the obstacles. In this way, the floor will not be detected as an obstacle and obstacles of various sizes above the floor can be readily detected. Furthermore, we have added important additional features, such as the provision of 2D printed codes, which can make the indoor navigation for blind people more effective. 

Our solution uses a combination of five vibrators to alert the blind about the obstacles. We occasionally use audio instructions for warning the blind about immediate danger and for providing useful information other than routine guidance.

Digirobotics

Your Ultimate Advanced Robotics and Autonomous Solutions

Andros Robotics

Andros Robotics is developing a robotic device for use at hospitals and clinics for administering gait training therapy to stroke patients and other neurological patients.

The technology behind our first product, the Robotic Leg Advancement Device (R-LAD) was developed at Northeastern University in Boston. This semi-autonomous robot is equipped with an advanced control algorithm to synchronize its actions to the actions of the user (patient), to seamlessly assist the patient with their leg motion during therapy.

Stroke is the number one cause of disability in the U.S., with almost 800,000 cases every year. Some stroke victims recover quickly while about 350,000 of the victims have the potential for significant recovery of motor function and cognitive abilities such that they may return to being productive members of the society.

The ability to walk is very highly correlated with well-being because it allows individuals/patients to be active members of their communities. For this reason, gait training is a major goal during the sub-acute phase of stroke rehabilitation.  Gait training is challenging not just for the patients themselves, but also for the physical therapists (PTs) that administer it. A common method gait rehabilitation with highly impaired patients is to use an overhead crane to suspend the patient over a treadmill, and to manually drive one leg of the patient through the proper motion. Typically two or three PTs are required to perform this type of therapy, with one stabilizing the torso/waist and the other providing manual facilitation of leg motion. For this reason, manual gait training is expensive and not optimised towards patients receiving the best therapy. 

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Robotic solutions do currently exist, however, they are expensive or ill-suited. We believe that the R-LAD could be the game-changer in robotic rehabilitation of gait, due to its semi-autonomous operation and innovative design.  

Healthy Robotics

The project proposes a novel compact robotic manipulator with a special configuration that supports a remote center-of-motion attribute, so it has the ability to accurately and conveniently manipulate and re-orient in two degrees of freedom, and to firmly ‘lock’ in place, special purpose surgical tools necessary for minimally invasive therapy.

The new features include a sophisticated joint-link structure and configuration that comprises two accurate links that enable comfortable maneuverability of the end effector or the tool about a pivot point, typically the port of entry of the tool to the patient’s body, while preventing the enlargement of the key hole, in the constrained and limited workspace of surgical environments, hence allowing to perform minimally invasive surgical procedures.

The configuration of the joints also provides an open structure that keeps the robot’s main parts out of the surgeon’s field of view and out of the work area, providing sufficient space in the vicinity of the operative field, or the entry port of the tool to the patient’s internal organs.

The manipulator can be used in manual, autonomous or remote-control modes.

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