Saturday, August 25, 2007

IWARD nursebot looks to clean hospitals, fend off intruders

We all know security gets a little heavy eyed when the wee hours of the morning roll around, and we highly doubt the janitorial staff is humming along at maximum efficiency when the residents are snoozing away, so implementing a robot to tackle both tasks seems quite practical. The IWARD project hopes to develop a "nursebot" that wears several hats, and can handle cleaning up spills, utilizing face and voice recognition technology to "communicate with patients and spot unauthorized visitors," and even working in "swarms" to distribute tasks between the robotic crew. Researchers are aiming to have a three bot prototype ready to rock by 2010, and want to integrate sensors and camera to avoid collisions whilst "traveling along high-speed lanes in the hospital corridors." Better steer grandma's wheelchair clear of the robotic raceway, eh?

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Press Note on IWARD

Swarms of intelligent robots that can clean, tidy and even attend to patients remotely could revolutionise the provision of healthcare in hospitals. It is hoped these robotic nurses could patrol and monitor wards, dealing with problems and easing the burden on hospital staff.

The EU-funded project, known as IWARD, will be co-ordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and involve collaboration between European academic institutions, including the universities of Cardiff, Dublin and Newcastle.

Project leader Thomas Schlegel, from Fraunhofer's human-computer interaction division, says the robots could also help hospitals cut MRSA infections on wards by keeping them cleaner.

Each will consist of a basic platform on to which a module of sensors and equipment for different tasks would be mounted. This is being developed at Newcastle University. For example, a robot would be fitted with a laser thermometer to allow it to remotely monitor a patient's temperature, or fitted with cleaning equipment to mop up spills. They will communicate with each other and co-ordinate tasks when appropriate.

While the hardware and modules will use off-the-shelf technology as much as possible, the swarm-based intelligence will demand ground-breaking work, according to Schlegel. Fraunhofer is working with Warwick University to develop this innovative software platform to allow the robots to operate semi-autonomously.

'The idea is not only to have mobile robots but also a full system of integrated information terminals and guide-lights, so the hospital is full of interaction and intelligence,' said Schlegel. 'Operating as a completely decentralised network means that the robots can co-ordinate things between themselves, such as deciding which one would be best equipped to deal with a spillage or to transport medicine.'

Schlegel envisages the robots will be used for a wide range of tasks. One would be to guide people around the hospital. A visitor could tell a fixed information terminal the name of a patient he wanted to visit and a robot would lead him to their bedside. If the nearest robot was not sure of the patient's location it could communicate with others in the area to see if they could help.

Each robot will be fitted with a suite of sensors allowing it to move around the hospital, using proximity sensors to avoid collisions and inbuilt cameras to explore its environment. One robot will be able to warn another if its cameras see a collision is likely. High-speed lanes to allow the robots to move around quickly could also be installed.

Information will be passed between the robots using a wireless LAN or technology such as Bluetooth but they will also be able to use other forms of communication including infrared lasers.

The robots will communicate with patients, pass messages or perform basic tasks. 'The human-robot interaction will be tricky as the robots will have to be able to deal with people with different injuries and disabilities as well as the elderly and seriously ill patients,' admits Schlegel.

Facial recognition technologies will be employed, so the robots could spot if any unauthorised person had entered their ward.

Schlegel said: 'IWARD will mean that hospital staff will be able to spend more time with their patients rather than doing these other basic tasks.'

By the end of the three-year project, which began this month, the team hopes to have developed a three-robot prototype system.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Hospital Robot: The Rubiks cube solving robot RuBot II

Hospital Robot: The Rubiks cube solving robot RuBot II

Monday, August 6, 2007

New York City to get London-style "surveillance veil"

It looks like New York City will soon be seeing a slew of new ever-watchful eyes, as The New York Times reports that the city is set to get a London-style "surveillance veil" that would eventually consist of thousands of cameras monitoring vehicles and individuals alike. Dubbed the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, the system will initially include more than 100 cameras that are expected to be in place by the end of this year, each of which will be able to read license plates and send out alerts is suspect vehicles are detected. That appears to just be the tip of the iceberg, however, with some 3,000 public and privately-owned cameras set to be put into service by the end of 2008, along with a series of pivoting gates that'll be installed at critical intersections, giving authorities the ability to block off traffic at the push of a button. From there it'll apparently grow even further, with the entire operation expected to be up and running by 2010. No word on head-mounted cams as of yet though.

Tags: cctv, new york, new york city, NewYork, NewYorkCity, nyc, surveillance cameras, SurveillanceCameras

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Robo-Soldier to Patrol South Korean Border

To Help Monitor the Country's Tense Border with North Korea, Armed Robots Will Be Sent Out on Patrol.

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