In our last couple weeks for the project our Jaco 2 robot arm by Kinova was having software issue. We were able to get our system working, but not consistently. After working with the Kinova support team we finally fixed the software issue with the robot. The Semi-Autonomous Meal Assistance Robot (S.A.M.A.R) is fully functional. The Jaco arm is paired with a Microsoft Kinect V2 sensor. This combination detects when the users mouth is open, tracks the users head, brings the food to their mouth, and does not spill the contents it is carrying.
An argument could be made that this system is too complex and that facial expression recognition could be replaced with a simple button instead. However, this is only the beginning of this concept and our project has developed the base of this technology. This technology is not just limited to meal assistance, the Jaco arm can easily be programmed to complete other tasks. The Kinect also tracks multiple face features which can lead to tasks triggered by a single facial expression or combinations of expressions. To expand the concept of our project, the Kinect also has voice control. The possibilities of ways to trigger the Jaco arm through the Kinect are endless.
Over my time doing research for assistive technology one of the biggest things that I have learned is that it is very difficult to design something for general use. There are many disabilities that are unique and therefore required unique devices depending on what the user is capable of and their needs. Our project can lead to libraries of task that are custom made to fit the needs of a specific user. The ways of triggering the tasks, such as facial expressions or voice control, can also be custom made to fit the capabilities of the user. Our project is only the beginning, I hope that this research is continued because there is a bright future ahead.
This REU program has been a great experience for me. I really enjoyed the work that I completed with my group. Previously my experience with robots has been limited to manufacturing style systems but my experience at Stout has opened my eyes to a completely new world of robotics. I have learned a great deal about assistive technology and I’ve gotten a feel of what grad school is like. I have also enjoyed my time spent in the city of Menomonie. There are many scenic places to visit such as lake Menomin, Wakanda Park, Riverside park, and the Devils Punch Bowl park. Also for the most part, everything is within biking distance of Red Cedar Hall. I intend on returning to my university and complete my undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. After I graduate I would like to start working in industry. Graduate school is something I would consider but perhaps further down the road. I’m excited to pursue more knowledge in robotics and can’t wait to see what the future holds for myself and the work that our group has done.