WHILL Wheelchair

WHILL is a Japanese startup that has revolutionised the motorised wheelchair. It’s an omnidirectional wheelchair that has put thought into the usability of the product. It won the Red Dot award in 2014.

The wheelchair is able to handle all kinds of terrain and it able to traverse even on grass and the steep slopes of San Francisco. As you can see the various videos, riding around on this wheelchair is smooth and very responsive. This not just functional but the have added some thought into the experience. Since the wheel is omnidirectional, it makes it easy for the wheelchair to mount a vehicle as long as there’s a slope to the vehicle. I love this feature. It is easy to dismount the wheelchair as the handle on the side can shift out of the way.

The wheelchair is ready for pre-order with a price tag of USD 9,500.

Keepon is Not Alone

Keepon has been around for a while and used in the research field for helping children with autism with social interaction. It’s a very engaging robot, having such lively dance moves in-sync with upbeat music using the MAX visual programming platform.

Here are a couple robots that have similar functionality.

1) Spazzi

A MAKE magazine project by beatbots (maker of the Keepon) that puts together low cost components to create a keepon-like robot.

2) Romibo

A low cost (initial cost of $700) therapeutic robot with open source software for use by various researchers.

Charlie is Helping Autistic Children

There is a growing number of autistic children today. There are many established invention programs but there is limited progress in these methods. Different groups of researchers have been using robots as a tool to combat autism. Different robots have been used – mobile robots to teleoperated childlike robots to cartoon characters.

CHARLIE (Child Centered Adaptive Robot for Learning Environments) is the latest addition to this team of robots. Charlie was designed by Laura Boccanfuso of University of South Carolina. Charlie was create to improve communications skills of autistic children, in particular imitation and turn taking. Charlie has a camera that can do face tracking, IR sensors that measures the temperature of the subject and detachable arms to prevent damage in event the child gets a little rough.

Some robots in this area.

Singapore Empathetic Bear in a Nursing Home

This is not the first robot that is being introduced to elderly but it’s making an impact in Singapore. Paro, a japanese seal robot, has been named the “World’s Most Therapeutic Robot”. The bear is able to recognise emotion from the interaction. The bear has become a companion to the many elderly living in Singapore’s Villa Francis Home for the Aged. It’s good to see the smiles on the faces of the people interacting with the bear.

Our Own Telepresence Robot

Ctrl Works, a Singapore telepresence company, has been busy getting their robot (the puppet) in action at various hospitals and homes in Singapore. This is one of the more publicised robots in Singapore from the private sector. It is indeed encouraging to see development in robotics outside of industry in Singapore. The Healthcare industry in Singapore has been exploring robotics and it’s great to see that they are now exploring the use in trials.

There certainly are many telepresence in the market now but at present it’s difficult to develop a generic platform. There’s a need to truly understand the need of the end-user to develop a suitable platform for the particular application. It’s the integration that seals the deal for implementation. It’s good that the healthcare sector in Singapore is open to such technologies and opportunities to testbed telepresence in Singapore, given the size of our island.

Read about them at Singularity Hub and Pop Sc.

Mobile Platform for Paraglegics

This “wheelchair” I found on gizmodo certainly is lifesaver for paraplegics.

It’s also good to see how robotics technology can take shape in different forms that play such a wonderful role in a person’s live.
It would be good to bring this to Singapore to help children with muscular dystrophy. Most of these children reach a stage where they can’t move their legs and have weak hands. Their caregivers need help and this will be a great platform to assist them and give independence to the children as well.

Helping the Aged

There is a growing trend of development of robots for the aging society of the world. This is a global challenge that we are addressing as it will become reality soon. It’s important we get the best minds to the task as this isn’t an easy problem to solve but we have our hopes in iRobot.

REad article in Technology Review.