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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eating robots improve quality of life and save man-years

Credit: DTI,  eating robots 
"Robots should not be used to care for people!"
60% of EU citizens are saying that robots should be banned. when it comes to the care of children, elderly people and people with disabilities, according to the Special Eurobarometer survey "Public attitudes towards robots"
Meanwhile different nursing homes, assisted living facilities and municipalities in Europe are currently discovering testing and buying new robotic technology to improve support services, independence and quality of support services. A new evaluation report "Eating robot for citizens with physical handicaps" compiled by Danish Technological Institute (DTI), Robot Technology reveals positive results when using self-feeding robots.
Credit: Neater
From January 2011 to May 2012, the Danish National Board of Social Services, the Danish Center for Assistive Technology and supplier  Jadea conducted a DKR 4 million project, evaluated by DTI, Robot Technology, where two different self-feeding machines, Neater Eater Manuel (NEM ) and Neater Eater Electric (NEE) were tested in relation to 36 citizens with physical disabilities. The aim of the project has been to make individuals with disability in arms and legs, who have been fed during meals, completely or partially independent by use of the self-feeding machines. With the project, the machines have not only implied a reduced need for personal assistance and support in connection with feeding, but the citizens have also gained an increased life quality, independence, and freedom.
Save man-years
DTI estimates that 16 minutes and 44 seconds of staff assistance are saved per meal, when an eating assistance machine is used. It is calculated that the payback time typically is 95 days with the NEM model and 206 days with the NEE model, and that the annual resource reduction of national implementation in the actual target group is 317 man-years. With a professional, competent visitation of the self-feeding technology, the machines can profitably be used by a wide group of people with physical disabilities, create improved life quality, independence, and freedom for the individual besides the fact that the technology gives evident resource savings.
Based on the positive effects from the project DTI comes to the conclusion that a lot of more citizens could profit by self-feeding machines, for instance children with disabilities in arms and hands who are ready to eat by themselves, as well as physically challenged individuals with sclerosis, muscular dystrophy etc. living at home. If the machines are not only used at the residences but also at drop-in centers and nursing homes, more resident satisfaction and saved manpower are to be found.
New Korean eating robot
Credit: Intech, Won-Kyung Song, Jongbae Kim
A new and more advance eating robot has been developed at the Korea National Rehabilitation Research Institute and Korea National Rehabilitation Center capable of handling Korean food, including sticky rice. Users are people with physical disabilities who have limited arm function. During the development of the robot, the researchers considered the feedback provided by several users and experts. In addition, the user candidates tested the actual the self-feeding robot. It was determined that the input device has the most important role. Many users prefer a dual joystick for self-feeding. Most of the users who participated in the experiments gave positive feedback and some users were impressed that they were able to eat their desired food when they wanted to eat it. In future work several functions will be added to the robot, including improving the reliability of basic operations and adding a safety feature.

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