Thursday, June 13, 2024

Can A Robot Help Finding Important Stuff?

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Researchers from the University of Waterloo have developed an innovative method to program robots aiding dementia patients in finding lost items like phones, medicine, and glasses.

Fetch, the robot used in the research. Credit: University of Waterloo
Fetch, the robot used in the research. Credit: University of Waterloo

Losing your phone can be a nightmare, but fear not! A companion robot equipped with its episodic memory has the potential to be a game-changer in situations where finding misplaced items, like phones, is a challenge.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo have developed a groundbreaking approach to program robots that assist individuals with dementia in locating misplaced items, including phones, medicine or glasses. While aimed at aiding individuals with dementia, this technology has the potential to help anyone who has faced the exasperation of losing and tirelessly searching for an item.

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The researchers observed the growing dementia population experiencing restricted brain function leading to memory loss and confusion. They noted the impact on everyday life and caregivers due to repeated misplacement of objects. The team aimed to revolutionize dementia care by developing a companion robot with episodic memory. Using artificial intelligence, they created a unique artificial memory. Starting with a Fetch mobile manipulator robot equipped with a camera, the research team commenced their work. Subsequently, they employed an object-detection algorithm to enable the robot to detect and track specific objects in its camera view, creating a memory log using stored video. The robot distinguishes objects and records their entry and exit times.

The researchers also designed a user-friendly graphical interface that allows users to select objects for tracking and input their names. Through a smartphone app or computer, users can search for the objects and receive information on when and where the robot last spotted them. Extensive testing has demonstrated the system’s high accuracy. Although individuals with dementia may perceive the technology as challenging, as per the researchers.

In the future, the research team plans to conduct user studies with individuals without disabilities, followed by those with dementia.

Reference : “Where is My Phone?: Towards Developing an Episodic Memory Model for Companion Robots to Track Users’ Salient Objects” by Juhi Shah, Ali Ayub, Chrystopher L. Nehaniv and Kerstin Dautenhahn, 13 March 2023, ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction 2023. DOI: 10.1145/3568294.3580160

Nidhi Agarwal
Nidhi Agarwal
Nidhi Agarwal is a journalist at EFY. She is an Electronics and Communication Engineer with over five years of academic experience. Her expertise lies in working with development boards and IoT cloud. She enjoys writing as it enables her to share her knowledge and insights related to electronics, with like-minded techies.

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