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IBM and Rice University Team Up on a Robot to Care for the Elderly

Like so many things in life, the future of eldercare seemingly lies in robotics. On December 8, IBM and Rice University announced that they have collaborated on a prototype robot designed to help the elderly and assist their caregivers.

Named IBM MERA (Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant), the project is a Watson-powered robot that can help read a patient's vital signs, answer questions about their health, and recognize and assist if there is a fall. The prototype was created by IBM alongside Rice University students and faculty from the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Psychology. The robot currently resides inside IBM's "Aging in Place" research facility in Austin, Texas.

In addition to running on IBM systems—such as the Cloud and Watson technologies—MERA also implements CameraVitals, a system that can read vital signs by recording a patient's face. This technology was developed by Rice's Ashutosh Sabharwal and Ashok Veeraraghavan.

The combination of IBM Watson's speech functions and CameraVitals can potentially help get information to caregivers quickly and at all times of the day, especially in an emergency situation. Watson's speech and text capabilities also come into play if a patient has any health questions for the MERA, such as “What are the symptoms of anxiety?” or “What is my heart rate?,” according to the university. The idea is that the MERA will implement these systems to help the elderly live independently, while still being provided with the basic care they need.

“Now is the time to invest in, care for, protect, and empower our aging population so they can live more independent lives,” Arvind Krishna, IBM Research's senior vice president, said. “Our new research on ‘embodied cognition,’ which combines real-time data generated by sensors with cognitive computing, will explore how to provide clinicians and caregivers with insights that could help them make better care decisions for their patients.”

Both IBM and the university stress that the number of people aged 65 and up in the United States will continue to grow in the coming decades, with estimates pointing at 92 million by 2060, making advancements in eldercare vital as the overall population ages.

[h/t Healthcare IT News

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Boston Dynamics
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technology
SpotMini, Boston Dynamics's Highly Capable Robo-Dog, Will Go on Sale Soon
Boston Dynamics
Boston Dynamics

Remember the Boston Dynamics robot that gripped the internet in collective terror earlier in 2018? The four-legged, headless 'bot was featured in a series of videos that displayed its ability to open doors, navigate stairs, and even challenge a human armed with a hockey stick.

Now, our dystopian nightmare is one step closer to becoming a reality. Boston Dynamics announced that SpotMini, their name for this practical-function puppy-bot, will see a limited release in 2018 and full-scale production in 2019. The company is eyeing commercial functions for the device, which can trot around office environments as a surveillance presence or assist in construction tasks that might prove dangerous for humans, like bounding up to the top of an unfinished skyscraper. With its optional, rather freakish arm attachment, it can pick up nearly 9 pounds—that’s roughly the size of a newborn infant.

The model does have one failsafe—it can only operate for 90 minutes before needing to charge its battery.

SpotMini will function through apps and human-controlled commands. By mapping out its environment using sensors, it will be able to locomote autonomously. No price has been announced.

[h/t Dezeen]

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Nixie Rhie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Food
The Secret to Costco's Delicious Pizza Is a Sauce-Dispensing Robot
Nixie Rhie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Nixie Rhie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Deliciousness often comes from unexpected sources. Take the food court at Costco, for example: No matter which location you're shopping in, you can always count on the pizza there to taste better than food served at a big box store has any right to be. Reader's Digest recently revealed the secret behind the chain's confounding culinary consistency: pizza-making robots.

Rather than relying solely on human employees to assemble the ingredients, Costco has perfected the art of pizza preparation with a machine that makes each pie identical to the one that came before it. Each Costco pizza starts with dough that's had sufficient time to rise and achieve chewy, pillowy goodness. From there, an automated nozzle dispenses an even layer of pizza sauce over a spinning, uncooked crust, and then the cheese and toppings are added with painstaking precision. "Every Costco pizza you get should have the same amount of sauce, cheese, and toppings,” Costco employee Kaiwen Zhao told Reader's Digest.

The final step takes place in the oven: The pie is blasted with heat from all angles and emerges from the oven exactly six minutes later. If the pizza isn't purchased within the hour, it gets tossed and replaced with a fresh one.

Surprisingly, Costco is one of the biggest pizza franchises in the country, with nearly 500 stores serving up the famous pies. But pizza isn't the only menu item that keeps customers coming back to the food court: Costco's rotisserie chicken is so popular that it has its own Facebook fan page.

[h/t Reader's Digest]

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