HashOut: 2007/09/09
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Programmed to Care

Robots on wheels may one day help elderly people. Developed by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, Nursebots are being designed to carry dishes and other household items, remind patients to take medications, monitor movement to prevent falls, and provide a video link to outside professionals.

As baby boomers age, a shortage of caregivers is expected, says Sebastian Thrun of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute. Some of the slack can be taken up by personal assistants like this prototype (left), whose "face" includes eyes with lids that open and close, and eyebrows that tilt up and down It can respond to simple questions ("What's on TV?"), and nod or shake its head. Circular "ears" twirl slowly when it's thinking." The robot -- commercially viable perhaps within a decade -- is already scoring high on a test run with some senior citizens near Pittsburgh.

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