One of my friends gave me an article about research being done at the University of Washington on making robots feeding people. The article said that there were about a million people who needed to be fed in 2010. That number one is growing every year. 

Is This Real?

A robot would solve many people’s issues. I can eat when I want. Right? Not so fast – there are so many issues arise with this idea of having a robot feeding someone. Who will prepare the food? Who will get the person ready to be fed? With me, I use a head pointer to communicate during the day and I need to take it off during eating. 

The research is focusing on how to pick up different kinds of food. Some food has to be stabbed a certain way and other types of food you have to pick up a different way. The article talks about the ways that the robot has to learn how to pick up all kinds of food. This is awesome to accomplish – there is no question in my mind. I would give them an “A” for effort.

robot feeding a person. Disability Awareness

Independence

Although this sounds wonderful and helps with independence, can this truly solve the feeding problem. I would say for some people, it could, but for most people, it won’t. For the people who are like me, we can’t sometimes keep the food in, so the person has to put the food back in. The food might not be on the plate, so the robot can’t find the food. 

The most critical part of feeding is keeping the person clean. There are some feeders who don’t care what the person looks like. To me, this is sad because the person most likely is in a wheelchair and people often are scared at the person. If the feeder is not wiping the person’s face, people will just move away. I had that happen too many times and sometimes I just stop eating because I get embarrassed. I am not saying it is the people’s fault in moving but it is the feeder’s fault for not wiping. 

Can Robots Replace People?

Another concern is what if the person has trouble with the food and only the robot is there. What would happen then? Sometimes something sounds great but in reality, it is not. There are too many things that could go wrong. Should this kind of research continue? I don’t know what the answer is. Sometimes it would be good to have, but how much would the robot cost? At this point, it is just research for now, but some of the research could go to something else in theory.

There is one huge drawback with having a robot feeding you is there is no conversation while you eat. Some people do eat alone. This is true but a lot of time they are traveling for work or don’t have a family. You might be saying that people with disabilities usually don’t have a family. Although this is true, my point is this. A lot of people with disabilities don’t get out and socialize so having someone feed them gives them time to enjoy laughter.

Will Robots Ever Feed?

I don’t think there is no definitely answer if a robot can feed a person. In time, I might think it will be possible. I bet this is like when they first had the idea of the power wheelchair. When they started designing it, people might have told them that they were nuts. Now look at today, a power wheelchair is a common thing. Will robots feed people on regular basis? We have to see what the future will bring.

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