What’s all the hype about Watchbot?
If you’re like me, perhaps you jot everything down in a pocket-sized notebook. Maybe you are the type to fill your phone with alarms and reminders. You may even have a calendar on your desk, filled with important dates and events.
Whatever your method is, there is no shortage in ways people have attempted to overcome forgetfulness. It may seem like the premise of a sci-fi comedy, but researchers at Cornell and Stanford Universities have developed a new way to keep your habits and routines in check. That method? A laser-equipped robot made from some surprisingly simple materials.
The robot (known as WatchBot) is designed to help keep daily routines in check by pointing out forgotten steps with a small, low powered laser. This calls attention to the missed step in a minimally invasive, yet noticeable manner.
Watchbot made its debut at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation earlier this year. Crafted using a Kinect sensor, a tripod-mounted camera, a laptop, and a laser pointer, the robot is designed to silently observe routines. While observing, Watchbot learns the routine, everyday actions. When those patterns are broken, WatchBot points in the direction of the missed step.
Initial tests placed WatchBot in environments like kitchens and offices, observing routine, step-by-step based tasks, like cooking. If someone failed to put something away, such as a carton of milk, after pouring a glass, WatchBot would focus its laser on the carton until the action was corrected.
In the study, the researchers noted WatchBot’s potential for use in assisted living scenarios, rather than simply treating it like a futuristic personal assistant. Some speculate that WatchBot or similar mechanisms can be used to help those with degenerative diseases and conditions like Alzheimer’s, allowing patients higher levels of independence.
WatchBot is also a potential candidate for applications in the workplace, where skipped routines can lead to dangerous mistakes. A non-invasive monitor of safety might prove to be beneficial in manufacturing and other industries, where accidents and missed steps can lead to critical accidents and injuries.