On going evolution of the Robotic Assistive Device: a robot that is designed specifically for providing users with severe mobility impairment with the capability of moving and positioning objects of up to 2 Kg mass and performing manual operations such as turning pages in a book.
Our work in rehabilitation robotics, as this field has come to be known, was started by our founder, Bill Cameron, who was the director of the Remote Handling robotics group at the TRIUMF (new window) particle accelerator at the University of British Columbia (new window). Bill’s work was based on a simple premise: if you develop a device that decreases a severely disabled person’s dependence on others for simple physical tasks, then you have increased that person’s quality of life. This is particularly applicable in the work place, where the ability to work independently may mean the difference between employment and unemployment.
The Neil Squire Robot System was developed specifically for assisting persons with severe physical disabilities. The robot has base plates that attach permanently to the work station, but the robot can be quickly and repeatedly removed and re-installed onto these plates via the base mount system which will automatically register the position of the robot.
The system consists of several modules which can be combined to provide a 6-jointed manipulator with a cylindrical reach measuring 1.5 metres in diameter and almost 3 metres long. The system is capable of placing payloads of up to 2.3 Kg mass with an accuracy of 3 mm.
Disabled users operate the robot through their desk-top computer. The robot plugs into the computer’s serial port and the user commands the robot through a software package called WinFLASH (new window). WinFLASH (new window) is set up with icons representing robot tasks. All the user needs to do is click on the icon and the robot goes off to perform the task.
The robot has been evaluated with positive outcomes in simulated work environments by several users with severe disabilities. Therefore, at this point in time, we have a machine that operates more or less to our target specifications in terms of load capacity, accuracy and speed, and has received positive initial feedback from persons with severe disabilities. At this point, we now want to quantify the usefulness of the robot in actual workplace environments. This assessment is still to be carried out.
Health and Welfare Canada (NHRDP), Science Council of British Columbia, National Research Council of Canada (IRAP), Human Resources Development Canada