Things are winding down here at the Robotics REU. Though we had major technical difficulties, we were able to get the meal assistance robot working and some data collected. The final system didn’t end up entirely as I’d hoped, as when we tried testing it with someone with an upper extremity disability it didn’t work. When completed, I think this technology could have a huge impact. In the future, I hope that the meal assistance feature does more than just bring food to the user’s mouth, but also levels the utensil on its own.
I think there is a lot of different ways that this technology could improve in the future. A major advancement of our technology would be a way for the Kinect to determine the location of the base of the JACO arm. Currently, we need to directly measure the offset from the Kinect to the JACO in order for the meal assistance feature to bring food to the user’s mouth. If this were possible, the Kinect could be placed anywhere and the user would have more freedom with the system. In addition to this, the Kinect could be used to control not only the robot when eating, but also for other common movements the user wants the robot to do. For example, the user could smile to indicate that they want the robot to brush their teeth. I think there are a lot of ways future researchers could expand on our work in order to improve this technology.