Robots like Bestic aid a handicapped population with simple tasks
They were the last two speakers of the day, but when it was over, it felt more like a single presentation. Learning and entertainment both at once, all wrapped in a lively performance.
Alan Hagman, Manager of Health Robotics at Sweden’s Robotdalen, a robotics cluster, and head of a new Swedish Government-financed initiative, Technology for Independent Life, was first on stage. He wore a robotic glove the Robotdalen Innovation Award winner for 2012. “I will give you a more optimistic view,” he opened, referring to the two previous speakers who were anything but, “of how we can integrate with robots in a real-world environment.”
He opened with a two-minute video that depicted a dozen or so robots all working in differing real-world environments: one observing a dock area, another cleaning the interior of a truck, one other delivering supplies in a hospital, then a robotic forklift and even a 18-wheeler propelled along a highway using overhead electric wires. All were sensible and useful.
The triumph of the day, however, was a simple looking robot called Bestic
that helped handicapped people to do something that we all take for granted: eating.
Amazingly, the subjects in Hagman’s Bestic video seemed so proud, independent and unashamed using a robot for such a simple daily task; the robot was more friend than machine. They gain confidence as they eat.
Robotics to perform such simple daily tasks, and to do them well, seems like one of the basic underpinnings of the Scandinavian health care philosophy: people centric, simple, well designed for the job at hand.
As Hagman put it: “Swedes don’t want robots to take care of people; rather, they want robots to help people take care of people.” Interesting distinction when many others want the robot to do it all.
Hagman’s tag team buddy was Claus Risager, who, among other things, put forth the business case scenario for Bestic. Risager is Head of Robotics at the Danish Technological Institute.
Risager was the numbers guy and business case builder. He rambled through a half-dozen robots, showing how easily cost effective they were with a little creative business sense. When he got to Bestic, his numbers were more than compelling. He cited the 2567 handicapped people in Denmark who could benefit from Bestic; that each robot costs $4,000 and that the ROI is 212 days.
Extrapolating those numbers out to include the population of the U.S., he figured that there are 100,000 such handicapped adults, and at that population, the ROI on Bestic would be even more dramatic.