Tuesday 27 January 2015

Robot friend that offers hope to brave Joanne

Brian Byrne

Published 22/03/2014 | 02:30

Trinity College student Michael Cullinan with 'Robbie the Robot', developed for Cork teenager Joanne O’Riordan. Caroline Quinn

R2D2 eat your heart out – a group of young engineers at Trinity College Dublin have built a robot that would put the 'Star Wars' droid to shame.

Robbie the Robot was built for Co Cork teenager Joanne O'Riordan, who was born with Total Amelia, a rare condition which means she has no limbs.

The robot was built in just three months on a budget of €50,000, which Ms O'Riordan secured herself during a visit to the United Nations in New York City in 2012.

The prototype humanoid robot features a 7" LCD 'face', arms, torso and a single 'leg' which uses two wheels to roll around, and is an early example of what developers hope to one day present to Ms O'Riordan.

Following consultation with Ms O'Riordan and her family, the robot's main functionality is the ability to pick up dropped objects such as a pen or phone.

The robot is operated by an iPad app and can also be controlled by voice.

Leader of the project Kevin Kelly said he was compelled to get involved after watching Ms O'Riordan's appearance at the UN 'Girls in ICT Day' conference in April 2012.

"By her presence alone she was inspiring young girls to consider technology or engineering as possible careers, something very dear to my heart," said Mr Kelly.

"The research in autonomous robots and gripping technology that we were engaged in at Trinity seemed an ideal match."

The team have a number of future plans, including communication with other devices such as Ms O'Riordan's phone, a lighter body and different hand types which will allow it to pick up objects from tables.

Irish Independent

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