Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a robotic system that can feed people who need someone to help them eat. The idea was to develop an autonomous feeding system that would be attached to people’s wheelchairs and feed people whatever they wanted to eat.
The University, in its news blog, reported that, according to census data from 2010, about 1 million adults in the United States need someone to help them eat.
Researchers at the University are working on the robotic system that can feed someone. After identifying different foods on a plate, the robot can strategize how to use a fork to pick up and deliver the desired bite to a person’s mouth.
"Being dependent on a caregiver to feed every bite every day takes away a person’s sense of independence," said corresponding author Siddhartha Srinivasa, the Boeing Endowed Professor in the UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. "Our goal with this project is to give people a bit more control over their lives."
"Ultimately our goal is for our robot to help people have their lunch or dinner on their own," Srinivasa said. "But the point is not to replace caregivers: We want to empower them. With a robot to help, the caregiver can set up the plate, and then do something else while the person eats."
The team published its results in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters and is currently working with the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology to get feedback from caregivers and patients in assisted living facilities on how to improve the system to match people’s needs.
(Image Courtesy: University Of Washington)