Robots are coming, but not in a creepy taking-over way. They want to help us relax and, should the need arise, they’ll also save us from disaster.
Our first new friend is named MEDi. He was designed by Aldebaran Robotics in France, and his sole purpose right now is to help distract children during stressful medical procedures like getting a needle.
Also known as “Soother-Bot,” MEDi lights up, moves and talks to children so that they’re not focusing on what nurses are doing in the room.
A study done by the University of Calgary on the benefits of having MEDi hanging out with children found that those who played with him while getting flu shots felt less pain than those who got the shot without MEDi.
The study, done on 57 boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 9, also found that those children who had MEDi present were more relaxed and then smiled more and recovered more quickly once the injection was done.
Those children who got the shot without MEDi present were upset afterward and took longer to recover.
It’s a pretty smart bot – it enjoys doing tai chi.
A New York Times report shows a clip of it putting toys away and asking a child to help clean them off first by blowing on it. This is two-fold: The child is excited to help the robot, distracting them from what is happening; at the same time, blowing air out relaxes their body, helping the nurse (and also taking away some of their parents’ stress).
Atlas is the name of our second new bot friend.
It’s a robot that’s been financed by the U.S. Pentagon with the hope that it will save humanity in times of natural and man-made disasters.
It looks impressive, standing on two legs, hands on its “hips,” with a light not unlike Iron Man’s beaming from its chest.
Atlas made its first public appearance on Thursday, and the New York Times reported one robotics-industry leader as saying “a new species, Robo Sapiens, are emerging.”
Atlas is made of aluminum and titanium, weighs 330 pounds, has stereo and laser-vision systems and is hydraulically powered. Right now, he’s at the development level of a one-year-old, but scientists say he’s a fast learner.
The Pentagon is challenging six teams of technologists this December to program their bot to do possible rescue operation tasks, including opening doors, travelling over rocky ground and shutting valves off. Up for grabs for the best team is $2-million (U.S.).
Their hope is that in a time of crisis, like large forest fires, hurricanes, maybe a train crash, robots could be sent into places where it’s too dangerous for humans to go.
MEDi and Atlas both offer futuristic solutions to problems we’re facing. Hopefully no one is scared of the technology (if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that there are no negative side effects to trusting robots with human tasks, right?) because it looks like the only thing we’ll see from now on is the steady growth of our new friends, the Robo Sapiens.