Persons living with disabilities have a new dining companion: the Obi Robot. First, meet Jon Dekar, a young American engineering student from the University of Dayton. Inspired by the suffering he witnessed his disabled grandfather going through while doing such “simple” but very crucial life acts such as eating by himself, he created the robot’s first prototype in 2006 to help the old man who was suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
With Obi, a disabled person like Jon’s grandfather will now have more control over their meals. The robotic arm uses an attached spoon to scoop food from a set of four bowls connected to its base and then deliver the food to its user’s mouth with ease.
Obi was created by the robotics firm Desin, a company incorporated in 2010 by Jon and his father Tom Dekar. The father-son duo designed the robot in such a way as to learn the delivery location of the food - in this case the disabled person’s mouth - scooped after being directed once by a caregiver. It then repeats the action by itself when required to do so.
The robot is equipped with portion control settings, interchangeable spoons, as well as a spill-proof surface for a simpler clean-up process. Both the robot’s spoons and the four bowls are microwave and dishwasher safe.
Obi’s robotic arm is highly movable, being capable of scraping the sides of its bowls and even adjust itself depending on the kind and amount of food being picked up. The dining robot can also detect collisions. However, the robotic arm is not completely autonomous. It has two buttons used for its functioning. The green “choose” button enables it to move the spoon to its bowl while the blue “delivery” button tells it to scoop food and carry it to the mouth.
At $4,500, Obi is a bit expensive. However, you might know from personal experience or the experiences of a loved one, that it's difficult to assign a price tag to this kind of life enhancement.
Image credit: meetobi.com