Young Sang Choi, Cressel Anderson, Travis Deyle, Charles C. Kemp
We are developing an autonomous mobile assistive robot named El-E to help individuals with severe motor impairments by performing various object manipulation tasks such as fetching, transporting, placing, and delivering. El-E can autonomously approach a location specified by the user through an interface such as a standard laser pointer and pick up a nearby object. The initial target user population of the robot is individuals suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive neuro-degenerative disease resulting in motor impairments throughout the entire body. Due to the severity and progressive nature of ALS, the results from developing robotic technologies to assist ALS patients could be applied to wider motor impaired populations. To accomplish successful development and real world application of assistive robot technology, we have to acquire familiarity with the needs and everyday living conditions of these individuals. We also believe the participation of prospective users throughout the design and development process is essential in improving the usability and accessibility of the robot for the target user population. To assess the needs of prospective users and to evaluate the technology being developed, we applied various methodologies of human studies including interviewing, photographing, and conducting controlled experiments. We present an overview of research from the Healthcare Robotics Lab related to patient needs assessment and human experiments with emphasis on the methods of human centered approach.