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Robot Helpers

Cleaning the floor, serving up lunch, practicing a sport . . . Whatever the task, there’s probably a bot for that! Check out some unexpected ways robots are helping humans around the world.

Jason Nuttle Photography/Courtesy of OhmniLabs (Hospital Buddy)

Hospital Buddy

When patients at Phoenix Children’s Hospital want to have a playdate, a family visit, or an outside stroll, they call Ohmni. Ohmni is a robot with a video camera that can be controlled from a distance. Hospitalized kids can use the camera to see their friends and chat with them as if they were there in person, while still avoiding the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria or viruses.

“It’s about robots helping people to do tasks, such as connecting people across distances,” says Thuc Vu. He’s the co-founder of OhmniLabs, which makes Ohmni.

Ohmni has connected kids with their families, friends, and even celebrities. Some patients have “attended” events, such as a soccer match where children with disabilities took the field as honorary players.

Sometimes the patients at Phoenix Children’s Hospital want to do something outside. They might be invited to a playdate or a family visit. They might just want to go for a walk. That’s when the patients call Ohmni. Ohmni is a robot. It has a video camera. A kid can control Ohmni from a distance. Kids in the hospital can use Ohmni’s camera to see their friends. They can chat as if they were there in person. But they can still avoid the harmful bacteria and viruses that exist outside their hospital rooms.

“It’s about robots helping people to do tasks, such as connecting people across distances,” says Thuc Vu. Vu is the co-founder of OhmniLabs. OhmniLabs is the company that makes the Ohmni robot.

Ohmni has connected kids with their families and friends. Some kids have even used Ohmni to meet celebrities. Patients have also “attended” events using Ohmni. Children with disabilities were once able to be a part of a soccer match using Ohmni.

Courtesy of Miso Robotics (Cook)

Robo Cook

The world’s first burger-making robot, called Flippy, can cook up to 150 burgers per hour! As it glides across the kitchen floor, Flippy also fries food, monitors cook times, and cleans equipment.

Flippy is powered by artificial intelligence (AI), so it’s a fast learner. Artificial intelligence is the ability of machines to “think” like humans and mimic their actions. AI allows Flippy to cook 19 different foods and learn new cooking styles.

Flippy has been used at a handful of restaurants around the U.S. since 2017. Flippy’s creators at Miso Robotics in California say the bot has been especially helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s allowed restaurants to safely reopen after being closed and despite worker shortages.

Flippy is the first robot in the world that can make burgers. Flippy can cook up to 150 burgers per hour! It glides across kitchen floors. It fries food. It keeps track of the amount of time food should be cooked. It also cleans equipment.

Flippy is a fast learner. That’s because Flippy is powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Artificial intelligence is the ability of machines to “think” like humans. A robot with AI can mimic human actions. AI allows Flippy to cook 19 different foods and learn new cooking styles.

A couple of restaurants around the U.S. have used Flippy since 2017. Miso Robotics is the company that created Flippy. The company is based in California. Miso Robotics say that Flippy has been especially helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic. The robot has allowed restaurants to safely reopen after being closed. It’s also helped with worker shortages.

Courtesy of Edge Innovations (Dolphin)

Finned Friend

Animal-like robots have long been used by filmmakers to avoid using real animals—think the shark in Jaws and the orca in Free Willy. Now they’re being used to keep live animals out of captivity and in the wild where they belong. Edge Innovations analyzed the bodies and movement of dolphins to create Delle, a lifelike robotic dolphin. The company is developing a tourist attraction featuring robotic dolphins that is set to open next summer in Florida.

Delle creator Walt Conti hopes the bots will inspire people to care about marine animals. “We view them as ambassadors to the real animals out in the ocean,” Conti says.

Movies have often included robots that look and move like animals. Two examples are the shark in the movie Jaws and the orca in the movie Free Willy. Now robots are being used to keep live animals out of captivity. That way, real animals can stay in the wild where they belong. The company Edge Innovations studied the way dolphins look and move. They used the data to create a lifelike robotic dolphin called Delle. Edge Innovations is developing a tourist attraction. The attraction will feature robotic dolphins. It’s expected to open next summer in Florida.

Walt Conti worked on creating Delle. He hopes the robotic dolphins will inspire people to care about marine animals. “We view them as ambassadors to the real animals out in the ocean,” Conti says.

KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images (Ping Pong)

Ping-Pong Partner

Whether you’re an Olympic-level competitor or a newbie, this robotic table-tennis trainer helps players practice. Robotics maker Omron created Forpheus (FOR-fee-us). This Ping-Pong playing bot helps players improve their skills—no human partner required.

Using cameras and sophisticated software, the robot can follow the ball, volley with players, and assess their speed and skill. It adjusts its skill level to challenge opponents and help them improve. Forpheus also shows players their average ball and spin speeds so they can track their progress.

This is a robotic table-tennis trainer called Forpheus (FOR-fee-us). It helps Ping-Pong players practice. It’s designed to help both new and experienced players improve their skills. Players who use Forpheus don’t need a human partner. The robot was created by a company called Omron.

Forpheus uses cameras and sophisticated software. It can follow the Ping-Pong ball. It can volley with players. It can also assess a player’s speed and skill. Forpheus adjusts its skill level to challenge opponents and help them improve. Forpheus also shows players their average ball and spin speeds. This helps players track their progress.

Now You Try It

A children’s hospital patient is 99.71 cm tall. Ohmni is 42.49 cm taller. How tall is Ohmni?

A children’s hospital patient is 99.71 cm tall. Ohmni is 42.49 cm taller. How tall is Ohmni?

Flippyʼs touch screen monitor is 15.6 inches wide. If the screen was upgraded to be 3.8 inches wider, how wide would it be?

Flippyʼs touch screen monitor is 15.6 inches wide. If the screen was upgraded to be 3.8 inches wider, how wide would it be?

The Delle dolphin robot can swim at a speed up to 7.15 miles per hour. A real-life common bottlenose dolphin can swim as much as 14.85 miles per hour faster than that. What’s a bottlenose dolphin’s top speed?

The Delle dolphin robot can swim at a speed up to 7.15 miles per hour. A real-life common bottlenose dolphin can swim as much as 14.85 miles per hour faster than that. What’s a bottlenose dolphin’s top speed?

A player training against Forpheus hits the ball at a speed of 10.56 meters per second. Forpheus noted that her average ball speed was 2.44 meters per second faster in the first game. What was the player’s average ball speed during her first game?

A player training against Forpheus hits the ball at a speed of 10.56 meters per second. Forpheus noted that her average ball speed was 2.44 meters per second faster in the first game. What was the player’s average ball speed during her first game?

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