The human race may be well into the new millennium, but there’s still a gap between the robots of today and the lofty goals of countless sci-fi stories. It’s more common to see them as arms in an assembly line or toys waddling around on Christmas mornings than walking the streets; with that in mind, advances are made virtually every day. One such advance has readied a robot for a whole new task: helping the vision-impaired.
The Baxter robot has seen use before in industries, but its adaptability and safe, easy integration could put it to work outside the assembly line. Reportedly, Baxter is capable of learning via touch and the positioning of its arms; thanks to that, those with poor vision can interact by touch, and help Baxter learn specific tasks to help them with daily routines. It’s a good solution for people who need that physical interaction, especially since Baxter is designed to learn through the movement of its various manipulators.
Right now, it seems like the trade-off is that Baxter sacrifices mobility for capability — but a fix for that might be on the way. Researchers have proposed creating mobile robots to help the vision-impaired, in the same vein as guide dogs. That might be well into the future, but the fact that they’ve been considered means that progress is coming.