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Future Tech: 

Robot takes sick kids on virtual daytrips


A robot prototype prepares to be a child’s eyes and ears.

For hospital-bound and terminally ill children, missing out on daytrips with their friends may not be the most serious problem in their lives, but it’s upsetting, all the same. Robots For Good has recognized this problem, and come up with a solution that allows children to virtually leave their sickbed, without putting themselves at risk.

Combining four distinct technologies – the InMoov robot, an Oculus Rift headset, a bespoke control pad and a Segway for movement – Robots for Good can be a surrogate presence for the hospital-bound child on group trips to the zoo.

London Zoo, to be precise. Robots for Good approached Great Ormond Street hospital (a children’s facility in England’s capital) to allow the residents the chance to ‘virtually visit’ London Zoo.

Richard Hulskes, co-founder of Wevolver, first came up with the idea after a visit to Maker Faire in New York, where somebody had linked the Oculus Rift headset to an InMoov robot’s head. Thus, when the wearer of the Oculus Rift headset moved their head, the robot would follow, allowing the human in control to see the world through a robot’s eyes.

There was a problem to overcome though: the model that Hulskes wanted to emulate was completely immobile, only able to move its head. The problem was solved by turning to Open Wheels, an open-source Segway project. The whole robot can then be controlled remotely from a game-controller style device, which looks a bit like an Xbox One gamepad.


Mobility was previously a problem for the project, but the classic segway proved to be an easy attachment.

With plans for both the InMoov robot and the Open Wheels Segway both open-source, anyone in the world can download details and build or 3D-print their own models, meaning the potential for crowd-sourcing child happiness is very possible, and very exciting.

Hulskes told The Guardian: “There is a huge community around the robots already, with more than 300 people around the world building the robots; but they’re doing it without the legs. However, there’s also a huge community building this open source Segway. The only thing we’re doing is bringing them all together and mixing them up and making sure that they work together.”

The potential price-tag is another exciting factor. Because of the potential to print-your-own elements of the robot, a Robot for Good could potentially cost as little as $2,500 – a fraction of the $100,000 that the average consumer robot would typically cost.

“Because our robot is 3D printable, it’s easily replicable. Plus there is no need to make a profit so we can directly link people to the supply chain and tell them where to buy the cheapest parts and what machines to use,” Hulskes explained. “It’s an example of how people can now start building products themselves and don’t have to wait for big companies to do it for them,” he added.

You can learn more about the project in the video below:

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