Robots that feed people who can’t feed themselves are here

BY MARK WILSON: For More Info, Go Here…

ngd-Although this may seem like a frivolous effort, feeding problems are a critical and preventable source of aspiration pneumonia and death in nursing homes. When nursing homes cut corners on staffing, one area where problems arise is in feeding everyone who needs help. Feeding assistants are pressured to hurry, resulting in aspiration of food. This is compounded by the use of antipsychotic medications to keep patients docile. This medications interfere with normal swallowing and make aspiration more likely.

A million people around the U.S. cannot feed themselves. Whether they’re living with a disability or age-related challenges, they require a caregiver to spoon food into their mouths for meals and snacks. For the past year, researchers at the University of Washington have been developing a robotic arm that could enable anyone capable of opening their mouth to feed themselves. The robot can be hooked onto a wheelchair, where it holds a fork, pokes at bites of food, and delivers those bites right into someone’s mouth. It’s a personal companion for food that could one day replace assisted eating altogether.

But the mealtime choreography that most of us take for granted is harder to automate than you might think. To master the use of a fork, researchers needed to deconstruct the intricate UX of eating.

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