Of all the robots that are on the market today, one of the most useful and expensive is the PR2 from Willow Garage. We have talked about the PR2 a few times and the bot is capable of all sorts of things. Generally, the bots are used for research in colleges and elsewhere, but they have more capability than that. Willow Garage has teamed up with a man named Henry Evans that had a stroke at 40 and is now a mute quadriplegic. Generally, a quadriplegic can't move any of his limbs, but after extensive therapy, Evans regained the use of a single finger and the ability to move his head.
Willow Garage is working with Evans to explore ways that the man can use the PR2 as a surrogate. The bot does all sorts of things for him around the home including helping him to shave and the PR2 scratches Evans' back when he itches. Evans was able to scratch his own itch for the first time in a decade when the PR2 came to his home.
The work with Evans is a way for Willow Garage to find out how the PR2 robot can be used in the home to help people with disabilities function. Evans is using a variety of experimental user interfaces that allow him to control and interact with the robot. This is a very cool project and it's nice to see Willow Garage helping people do the little things we take for granted using one of its expensive robots.