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Robotic Cody learns to bathe

Nov 11, 2010

The idea of robots being used to bathe humans has never manifested, likely in fear of them not being able to control the amount of force exerted. Now, engineers from Georgia Tech, led by Chih Hung King, have developed Cody, a robotic nurse that is gentle enough to bathe elderly patients.

King volunteered as a test subject for Cody, and placed blue pieces of candy on his arms and legs, to test Cody’s ability to wipe away debris from patients’ limbs without using too much force. The test was successful, as Cody wiped away the candy with his washcloth hand and researchers reported their results at the 2010 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) about a month ago.  

King comments on the test, “In the beginning I felt a bit tense, but never scared. As the experiment progressed, my trust in the robot grew and my tension waned. Throughout the experiment, I suffered little to no discomfort.”

Cody has the ability to be operated by the patient and told what part of the body to clean, using a laser range finder and a camera. Its joints have been left slightly stiff as to lessen the force of impact and have been programmed with a cap to prevent it from exceeding a certain pressure threshold. There is also a "stop" button to cease all movements immediatesimilar to a treadmill.

Elderly patients and patients with disabilities often have trouble performing various daily tasks, including maintaining personal hygiene. Robots already aid such patients with some more routine tasks, but Cody performs the task of bathing those patients that are too injured or lack the freedom of movement to do it themselves.

Bed baths are a common practice, usually performed by a nurse or family member. It can be akward or embarrassing to the patient and make them feel uncomfortable. In a time where nurses are in short supply, Cody lessens the burden of the nurses workload and saves the patient from the embarrassment of another human having to bathe them.