A robotic arm equipped with a touch-sensitive hair brush is useful in supportive care settings. The Robowig device will make the work of nurses easier.
With the rapidly growing pressure on health systems, nurses typically spend 18% to 40% of their time on immediate patient care tasks. Personal care robots that comb the hair of critically ill paralyzed patients can be of great help to staff.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL MIT) and the Harvard University Mathematics Lab have developed a robotic arm with a touch-sensitive soft brush. The robot is equipped with a camera that helps it “see” and evaluate the curves of the surface, so it can plan a delicate and quick brushing of the hair.
The team’s control strategy adapts to the degree of entanglement of the fiber bundle. Engineers have already tested RoboWig by combing wigs. The robot handled both straight and highly curly hair.
In developing the model of tangled fibers, the engineers used the experience of ordinary people and professional hairdressers in combing tangled hair to inform the robot.
Previous research on combing has focused on the mechanical, dynamic and visual properties of hair, as opposed to RoboWig’s focus on tangling and combing, the researchers note.
To brush and manipulate the hair, the researchers added a soft-bristled touch-sensitive brush to the robot’s arm to measure the force while brushing. They combined this setup with a so-called “feedback control system” that allows the process to be regulated automatically, without human intervention.