Innovations in Robotic Technology Improve Water Safety Rescues, Make Walking Easier for the Disabled and Deliver Dexterity and Accuracy to Surgery
Members within Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity, are incorporating outside technologies and ideas to drive innovation in a range of robotic fields such as disaster response, medical and biomechanical engineering.
Hugging a Robot Can Save Your Life
According to the International Lifesaving Federation, 1.2 million people around the world die by drowning every year. With most of these incidents happening during warmer seasons as people flock to the water, Dr. Robin Murphy, IEEE Fellow and director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASER) at Texas A&M University, is working with aquatic robots that are being utilized for water safety rescues. EMILY (Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard), a four-foot long remote controlled buoy, can reach distressed swimmers faster than any human and has been instrumental for lifeguards, as well as search and rescue personnel during floods.
“Approaching a distressed swimmer or flood victim is always difficult because, in times of distress, the person’s behavior can be extremely erratic,” stated Murphy. “Through implementing elements of proxemics, a psychological study of human use of space, and the effects it has on one’s behavior, communication and social interaction, we’ve been able to program EMILY to approach distressed swimmers in a comforting manner, allowing victims to trust the buoy to bring them to safety.”
Making Strides in Robotics that Improve Walking for People with Disabilities
With the continued developments of the Electroadhesive Clutch, a lightweight, low-power and highly-mobile exoskeleton, Steve Collins, IEEE member and associate professor of biomechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, is working towards enhancing the quality of life for the disabled and rehab patients. The Electroadhesive Clutch has the potential to provide enhanced mobility, enabling disabled and rehab patients to handle more tasks on their own, lift and carry heavier objects and perform routine tasks. This robotic innovation is an improvement to Collins’ Walking Assist Clutch, which reduces the energy exerted in walking by seven percent.
“A sandwich bag and a couple of pieces of aluminum foil helped me conceptualize the Electroadhesive Clutch, particularly how the transference of power would work in allowing the clutch to operate on such low power,” stated Collins. “The primary challenge in prosthesis and exoskeleton design is discovering functionalities that will actually help humans. With the Electroadhesive Clutch, we can now use hundreds of individually controlled clutches – each one thin, lightweight and consuming very little electricity – in a single exoskeleton. This will completely change the way we design robotic systems in the future.”
Video Games ARE Good for Your Health
Researchers at John Hopkins Medicine believe that more than 250,000 patients die each year due to medical errors, which is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. To increase the success rate of surgeries, Blake Hannaford, IEEE Fellow and director of the Biorobotics Laboratory at the University of Washington, is currently working on the Raven, a semi-autonomous surgical robot that is becoming instrumental in assisting surgeons during medical procedures. Semi-autonomous robots can benefit surgeons by providing them with greater dexterity and accuracy during a procedure, lowering the chances of surgeons making medical errors that can lead to complications or death.
“Our team has discovered that using AI algorithms called ‘behavior trees,’ built for opponents in certain video games translates well as a modeling language for automated medical procedures,” stated Hannaford. “The AI behavior trees have direct applications to programming the semi-autonomous Raven surgical robot, which will provide millions of patients with cutting edge care through greater precision and minimal invasiveness.”