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

The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Hiroshi Ishiguro Lab, YouTube
The Next Job Being Taken Over by Robots? TV News Anchor
Hiroshi Ishiguro Lab, YouTube
Hiroshi Ishiguro Lab, YouTube

The robots will come for all of our jobs one day, whether you’re a factory worker or a surgeon. In Japan, that reality now seems to be coming for television news anchors. According to Live Science and The Wall Street Journal, a humanoid robot named Erica is on the cusp of her debut on TV news.

Erica, who was originally built to work as a receptionist, was created at Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory and has been called the “the most life-like (and creepiest) robot ever built.” Right now, it seems her career will reach far beyond working a reception desk. Osaka University's Hiroshi Ishiguro, who calls himself the robot’s “father,” told The Wall Street Journal that she will make her television debut sometime in 2018, with the paper saying it will likely happen in April.

Designed to look like a 23-year-old woman, she has shockingly realistic-looking skin and facial expressions. Her speech, tinged with an English accent, is a little stilted, but her responses to questions largely sound pretty natural. She can also tell jokes that are just as groan-worthy as the ones that fly back and forth during the banter between news anchors.

She can’t walk around the room by herself, but she can sit behind a desk and move her neck, shoulders, and waist autonomously. She has depth sensors to help her sense where people are standing in a room and can recognize which direction sound is coming from, turning to face someone speaking to her. She’s also equipped with face-recognition technology.

Considering that The Washington Post already has a robot news reporter that writes stories and tweets, getting a robot to recite a script in front of a camera seems fairly easy. All she has to do is sit there and read the news. But Erica’s lifelike demeanor may make her a more capable on-air personality than we can imagine right now. It might not be long before she wins her first broadcast journalism award.

[h/t Live Science]


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