Deep down, we all share an anxiety about technology taking over the world for the worse, from transhumanism in Deus Ex to the malicious artificial intelligence of Portal. But more and more we’ve been hearing of advanced technologies being utilized for compassionate, positive reasons. Such is the case of Henry Evans and his robotic aide, the PR2:
Henry Evans is a mute quadriplegic, having suffered a stroke when he was just 40 years old. Following extensive therapy, Henry regained the ability to move his head and use a finger, which allows him to operate computers. Last year, Henry caught a TV interview of Georgia Tech Professor Charlie Kemp showing research with the Willow Garage PR2 robot. Willow Garage and Professor Kemp were contacted by Henry shortly afterwards, and we have been collaborating since then.
Evans, the PR2 and its makers, Willow Garage and the Healthcare Robotics Lab at Georgia Tech, are now focusing on a project entitled Robots for Humanity, which explores the possibilities of using robots to help those with severe physical disabilities. We can only hope the future of robotics looks more like this than anything else.