Robosoft Unveils Kompai Robot To Assist Elderly, Disabled

The French robotics company has introduced a robot designed to assist elderly and disabled people in their daily activities

2 min read
Robosoft Unveils Kompai Robot To Assist Elderly, Disabled

French service robotics company Robosoft has introduced a robot called Kompaï designed to assist elderly and disabled people and others who need special care. The mobile robot talks, understands speech, and can navigate autonomously. It reminds people of meetings, keeps track of shopping lists, plays music, and works as a videoconference system for users to talk with their doctors, for example.

The video below is pretty awesome. It shows a senior at Broca Hospital, in Paris, interacting with the robot after receiving only a few minutes of training. The man asks the robot about the time, date, and whether he has any appointments that day; Kompaï gives answers in a computerized voice.

"Robot?" the man says. "What can I do for you?" Kompaï responds. The man asks what is on the shopping list. "Fourteen apple, four cheese, and 18 tomato," the bot responds. The man says, "Add five eggs to the shopping list." Done.

The video also demonstrates how the man uses the robot when he doesn't feel well. "Robot, I'm not fine," the man says. "Where does it hurt?" Kompaï replies. The robot goes on to ask a series of questions and then tells the man that it sent that information to his doctor by email.

My favorite part is toward the end, when the man gives the robot the following command:

"Robot," he says, "leave me alone."

"OK. I stop talking. Call me when you like," Kompaï responds and promptly leaves the room.

This is how Robosoft describes Kompaï:

It is a mobile and communicative product. Somewhat like a dog, it has its "basket," which is the recharging dock that it heads back to when its batteries are low. Equipped with speech, it is able to understand simple orders and give a certain level of response. It knows its position within the house, how to get from one point to another on demand or on its own initiative, and it remains permanently connected to the internet and all its associated services.

Its primary means of communication with people is speech, with an additional touch screen that features simple icons. Future generations of Kompaï will be equipped with visual abilities, and also the possibility to understand and express emotions. And later, the addition of arms will allow it to handle objects, leading to meal preparation and tidying; more practical functions, yet still fundamental in everyday life.

The first generation of the robot, to be officially introduced next week at the Intercompany Long Term Care Insurance Conference in New Orleans, is an R&D platform, "intended for developers who would like to implement their own robotics applications for assistance," Vincent Dupourqué, CEO of Robosoft, said in a statement.

Robosoft is one of Europe's largest service robotics companies. They are famous (at least to me) for their robot that cleans the Louvre glass pyramid.

Make sure you watch Kompaï in action:

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Correction: The Intercompany Long Term Care Insurance Conference will take place in New Orleans from March 14-17, 2010.

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

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"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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