"[T]he current capabilities of many AI systems closely match some of the specialized needs of disabled people.... Fortunately, there is a growing interest in applying the scientific knowledge and engineering experience developed by AI researchers to the domain of assistive technology and in investigating new methods and techniques that are required within the assistive technology domain."
– Bruce G. Buchanan; from his Foreword to Assistive Technology and Artificial Intelligence: Applications in Robotics, User Interfaces and Natural Language Processing
Exoskeleton devices work, researchers say, for a variety of uses such as speeding up our walking or making running easier. Yet they don't know what exactly makes exoskeletons effective. What is the benefit of customization, for example? And how much does simply getting used to the exoskeleton matter? Researchers in the Stanford Biomechatronics Laboratory at Stanford University examined these questions and found that training plays a remarkably significant role in how well exoskeletons provide assistance.
A 3D-printed robotic hand controlled by pressurised water can complete the first level of classic computer game Super Mario Bros in less than 90 seconds. Ryan Sochol and his team at the University of Maryland were able to 3D print the hand in a single operation using a machine that can deposit hard plastic, a rubber-like polymer and a water-soluble "sacrificial" material.
President Barack Obama bumped fists with Nathan Copeland during a tour of innovation projects at the White House Frontiers Conference at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016. President Barack Obama bumped fists with Nathan Copeland during a tour of innovation projects at the White House Frontiers Conference at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016. A robotic arm with a sense of touch has allowed a man who is paralyzed to quickly perform tasks like pouring water from one cup into another. The robotic arm provides tactile feedback directly to the man's brain as he uses his thoughts to control the device, a team reports Thursday in the journal Science. Previous versions of the arm required the participant, Nathan Copeland, to guide the arm using vision alone.
Mira Robotics' Ugo is a pair of height-adjustable robotic arms mounted on wheels, operated remotely through a wireless connection with a laptop and game controller. A range-measuring laser mounted on the base helps it navigate, while a panel at the top displays eyes to give it a friendlier appearance.
The idea came to Zheng around the turn of the Lunar New Year. Wuhan had just been put on lockdown and the number of cases and deaths was rising rapidly every day. As an engineer, Zheng wanted to do something to contribute to the relief effort. On the first day of the Lunar New Year, he heard from his friend, Dong Jiahong, executive president at Beijing's Tsinghua Changgung Hospital, that the biggest problem was that of frontline workers getting infected. Gathering a team, Zheng set to work converting two mechanized robotic arms with the same technology used on space stations and lunar explorers.
Last month, researchers at OpenAI in San Francisco revealed an algorithm capable of learning, through trial and error, how to manipulate the pieces of a Rubik's Cube using a robotic hand. It was a remarkable research feat, but it required more than 1,000 desktop computers plus a dozen machines running specialized graphics chips crunching intensive calculations for several months. The effort may have consumed about 2.8 gigawatt-hours of electricity, estimates Evan Sparks, CEO of Determined AI, a startup that provides software to help companies manage AI projects. A spokesperson for OpenAI questioned the calculation, noting that it makes several assumptions. But OpenAI declined to disclose further details of the project or offer an estimate of the electricity it consumed.
A man has been able to move all four of his paralysed limbs using a groundbreaking mind-controlled exoskeleton, scientists have said. The tetraplegic 30-year-old, known only as Thibault, said his first steps in the robotic suit felt like being "the first man on the Moon". The system, which works by recording and decoding brain signals, was trialled in a two-year study by French researchers at biomedical research centre Clinatec and the University of Grenoble. Scientists conceded the suit was an experimental treatment far from clinical application but said it had the potential to improve patients' quality of life and autonomy. Wearing the robotic limbs, Thibault was able to walk and move his arms using a ceiling-mounted harness for balance.
Prosthetic legs with sensors can help people avoid unseen obstacles underfoot. Three people who have had a leg amputated found that they perceived such prostheses as an extension of their own body and were able to climb stairs more quickly than they could with a conventional prosthetic leg. Prosthetic limbs are often abandoned due to people's poor mobility when using them. The devices don't restore sensation, leaving people to rely on touch feedback from the stump meeting the socket. Stanisa Raspopovic at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and his colleagues modified a commercially available prosthetic leg by adding sensors to an insole on the foot and inside the knee.
Prosthetic limbs are getting better every year, but the strength and precision they gain doesn't always translate to easier or more effective use, as amputees have only a basic level of control over them. One promising avenue being investigated by Swiss researchers is having an AI take over where manual control leaves off. To visualize the problem, imagine a person with their arm amputated above the elbow controlling a smart prosthetic limb. With sensors placed on their remaining muscles and other signals, they may fairly easily be able to lift their arm and direct it to a position where they can grab an object on a table. The many muscles and tendons that would have controlled the fingers are gone, and with them the ability to sense exactly how the user wants to flex or extend their artificial digits.
A Bristol-based robotics company, Open Bionics, has developed the world's first medically-certified 3D-printed artificial arm for amputees. The Hero Arm, with its artificial hand, can fit children as young as nine years old. Its motor is controlled by muscles on the residual limb, allowing the user to carry out many tasks as if the hand was real. Open Bionics hope the £5,000 bionic arm could be made available on the NHS. BBC Click's Kathleen Hawkins went to meet Raimi, who says the arm has given her a new confidence.