Severely disabled people are often completely dependent on their caretakers to do even the simplest tasks these days.
A team of researchers from the Ecole polytechnique fťdťrale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have invented a robot that enables folks who can't move their arms and legs to virtually visit friends and family.
The team used a motorized robot that was controlled via an ECG cap by the user's thoughts alone. While the robot was in a laboratory at EPFL, disabled folks in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland were able to make it move around while seeing what the robot's camera is seeing.
To find out whether the set up needs more work to better complement disabled folks, the system was also tested with healthy people. The results showed that both the healthy and disabled people were about equal in their ability to pilot the robot.
Before testing their skills against other users they were given training for 10 days. While the robot is controlled remotely, it has some smarts of its own. The in-built sensors automatically detect objects in its vicinity and avoid obstacles in its way. The user can thus provide overall directions, and the robot figures out the details of how to get from point A to B.