ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
New Insights Show Ginseng Fights Inflammation
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Weight Loss Might Not Curb Knee Arthritis
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Gene Therapy May Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis
CANCER
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
CAREGIVING
Coordination Has Led to Quicker Heart Treatment
Exercise During Pregnancy May Help Baby
Timing May Matter in Organ Donation Decisions
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Health Tip: After Liposuction
DENTAL, ORAL
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
DIABETES
Fish Twice a Week Cuts Diabetics' Kidney Risks
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
Coffee Drinking Lowers Women's Stroke Risk
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Meat-Eating Dinosaurs Used Legs and Arms Like Birds
Skin Woes Take Toll on U.S. Combat Troops
Chemicals in Carpets, Non-Stick Pans Tied to Thyroid Disease
EYE CARE, VISION
Omega-3 Foods May Lower Eye Disease Risk
Ordinary Chores Cause Half of All Eye Injuries
Certain Diabetes Drugs May Pose Eye Risk
FITNESS
Vigorous Exercise Can Cut Breast Cancer Risk
Any Exercise Good After a Heart Attack
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
GENERAL HEALTH
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Be Healthy, Spend Less
Heavy Alcohol Use Linked to Cancer
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
MENTAL HEALTH
The Unmedicated Mind
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
SENIORS
Boost In Elderly Population Will Be Felt Worldwide
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Relief for Painful Menstrual Cramps
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Add your Article

Robots May Come to Aging Boomers' Rescue

TUESDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- In the not-so-distant future, American seniors may turn to helpful, uncomplaining robots to fill the worrisome "care gap" that many face today.

One of these autonomous devices, called the uBOT-5, is already capable of carrying out simple tasks while it monitors the home environment. The robot can even spot trouble -- such as a person falling down -- and call 911 if necessary.

The freestanding device can also bring a faraway loved one into an aging person's home via video Internet hook-up.

"So, if I'm at work, and it's lunch hour and I want to poke in on Dad, I can get on the Internet and basically 'step inside' the robot," said uBOT-5 co-inventor Rod Grupen, who directs the Laboratory for Perpetual Robotics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. With their face appearing via video on the front of the robot's head, the virtual visitor can converse with their loved one while moving the robot around, doing some cleaning, for example, or retrieving a dropped TV remote.

Any "authorized user" can jump into and guide the robot, Grupen said. "So, if you can't get to your doctor, your doctor can now come to you," he said. In fact, the UMass team hopes that the uBOT-5 will someday be capable of running simple medical tests, such as measuring blood pressure or blood sugar.

And because it's fully mobile, with Segway-like wheels, virtual visits from others should include much of the house, and beyond. "Your granddaughter on the West Coast can get into the robot and visit with you outside in the garden, you can have a two-way conversation with audio/video, hold hands and go show them the flowers you just planted," Grupen said.

There's a huge and growing need for robotic home assistants that might help care for the elderly or disabled and allow them to stay in their homes, Grupen believes. According to U.S. Census figures, the number of Americans age 65 or over will double by 2030, and two-thirds will need some form of long-term care. At the same time, there's a dearth of nurses and home health-care aides to care for them; experts predict a shortage of 800,000 nurses by 2020.

The uBOT-5's design was inspired by the human body. Its myriad sensors mimic human eyes and ears, constantly scanning its environment. It is even programmed to detect and respond to worrisome aberrations, including a fallen, unresponsive human. The robot's arms are each capable of handling 2.2-pound loads, and they can extend to reach high or pick things up off the floor (a dropped pill bottle, a package in a foyer, for example). The robot can lie prone to scoot itself under a bed (and then right itself), and it may even someday help with household cleaning and grocery shopping, Grupen said.

And the cost? Right now, the prototypes at UMass cost $65,000 apiece, but Grupen envisions a day when commercial versions would be sold for $5,000 plus a monthly Internet hook-up fee, much like today's computers.

And the uBOT-5 isn't the only such device in the pipeline. Over at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researcher Nicolas Roy, at the institute's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, has developed an "autonomous wheelchair" that only requires a command to whiz users from one spot to another in a hospital or nursing home.

When first delivered to a facility, the wheelchair -- rigged out with high-tech scanning software -- has no knowledge of the particular layout. But staff will uncrate it, turn it on, and give it a verbal guided tour, walking it past different rooms and nursing stations.

"You talk to it like you'd talk to a new person, a new nurse. And as a side effect of the thing being walked through the facility once or twice, the wheelchair has now been demonstrated a route between all the points," explained co-developer Seth Teller, who helps lead the lab's Robotics, Vision and Sensor Networks Group.

After that, a wheelchair-bound stroke patient or quadriplegic need only say, "Take me to Room 451" for the chair to understand and then do just that. The device will be launched as a prototype ready for testing in a Boston-area nursing home within two years, Teller said.

Finally, at Georgia Tech, researchers led by assistant professor Charlie Kemp are making their own home-care robots, inspired by the agile intelligence of service dogs.

"We're using service dogs to answer three important questions: What tasks would be good for a [home] robot to perform? How should people interact with the robot, to tell it to do these tasks? And how can the robot actually perform these tasks, given the complexities of the home?" Kemp said.

Service dogs and the disabled people they help are providing the answers. The new robot is being designed to move about and perform tasks such as opening drawers, turning doorknobs and working light switches, Kemp said. Users indicate what they'd like done by using a laser pointer, and homes are modified slightly to help the robot, just as homes are subtly tweaked to aid service dogs. "Things like tying a small towel to a doorknob" to facilitate grasping, Kemp explained.

The robot may not ever replace a great service dog, but Kemp noted that the average disabled American now pays $16,000 for a properly trained canine, and waiting lists now stretch for years.

"I think there's a real need," he said. "So, the hope is that people will support this sort of work. Then, we'll be able to deliver these things when people need them."

-E.J. Mundell

More information

There's more on the uBOT-5 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.



SOURCES: Rod Grupen, Ph.D., professor, computer science, and director, Laboratory for Perceptual Robotics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Seth Teller, Ph.D., professor, co-head, Robotics, Vision and Sensor Networks Group, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; Charlie Kemp, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of biomedical engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Last Updated: Nov. 18, 2008

Copyright 2008 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.




Robots May Come to Aging Boomers' Rescue
UMASS Amherst

uBOT-5 robotic assistant