PR2 robot helps quadriplegic man shave himself

The experiment is part of a broader effort to use robots to help people with reduced mobility, as well as seniors.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
Paralyzed by a stroke, Henry Evans gets a helping hand from Willow Garage's PR2. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

PR2, the beer-fetching, laundry-folding, breakfast-making jack of all trades robot, has taken up a job as personal assistant for a man disabled by a stroke.

Maker Willow Garage has partnered with Georgia Tech's Charlie Kemp and colleagues of the Healthcare Robotics Lab to help Henry Evans and his wife Jane in a project dubbed Robots for Humanity.

It sounds rather grandiose, but the humanoid robot has made a real difference in the life of Evans, who suffered a brain stem stroke at age 40 that left him paralyzed and mute. Therapy has enabled him to move his head and a finger.

That allows him to use a computer and control PR2. The bot helped him scratch an itch for the first time in 10 years.

As the vid below shows, Evans prefers to shave himself with PR2 rather than have others do it.

The robot has a Kinect motion-tracking system that can monitor his head movements, and Evans can use it for navigation and to manipulate objects.

The project has just started and comes after Georgia Tech was awarded a PR2 last year as part of Willow's Beta Program. The Healthcare Robotics Lab's Assistive Mobile Manipulation for Older Adults at Home project focuses on using machines to help seniors at home.

As seen in these videos, the lab already had experience with using its EL-E robot to help people with ALS.

It's now focused on developing software for PR2 as a home-care helper, as well as trials with the robot that examine real-world needs.