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Artificial Intelligence makes its way into the public sector


RTEX conference examines role of robots in the UAE’s education, healthcare and public sector

May 13, 2014 5:11 by

Robotics technology could soon become a familiar feature in the UAE healthcare and education sectors. Dr Claus Risager, director of Blue Oceans Robotics, spoke on the functionality and relevance of these robots at the RTEX (Robot Technology Exhibition) conference on Monday, May 12.


“Why the UAE? People here are very open and motivated,” he said.


In the healthcare sector, robots have already been manufactured in the US and Europe for the purposes of transporting linen and food in hospitals. With the Telemedicine robot, sick children can still learn and participate in classroom activities from home.


Probably the most revolutionary robots are those that can help stroke patients or partly paralyzed people with rehabilitation and daily activities. The Wheelchair Arm robot can open fridge doors, answer the phone, shave or hold a child’s hand if the mother does not have full use of her arm. Another sophisticated design mentioned by Risager is called the ExoSkeleton, which can walk for stroke patients by sensing the nerve activity in their brain, eventually aiding them to recovery. He added that Japan has bathing robots in hospitals that remove the awkward scenario of nurses having to wash patients.


While the robotics industry is very real in some parts of the world, it is still making its way onto the retail market. According to Risager, who holds a PhD in robotics and artificial intelligence, a shopping robot that can assist stroke patients at the grocery store will be available in the UAE by the end of the summer for $1400. The country has already deployed robots on a small scale in some schools, hospitals and in the cleaning industry.


In schools, robots are now being introduced to assist children with learning disabilities such as Autism. According to Risager, there are robots in US schools that teach mathematics and conduct science experiments, adding a new level of interest to students in the classroom environment.


“The teacher has a new role, that of controlling the robot,” he said.


Concluding with forecasts for the near future, Risager said, “Now the robot has a brain that is at the level of a mouse. Eight to ten years from now, the computer chip will have the power of a human brain.”


Dr. José Barata, Assistant Professor and Researcher at UNINOVA, added that while robots now have many abilities such as configurability, motion and perception, there is still a need to find better design methods, systems and tools to meet societal challenges.


“There is a lot of potential in the Mena region as far as industrial and academic engagement, research and innovation,” he added. According to him, small-scaled robotic experiments cost approximately EUR300,000 each.


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