ITS Weekly - 20 February 2017

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Headline of the Week:  Robots - All Shapes, Sizes and Configurations

Three interesting tidbits coincided today.

The first was a Facebook post in my stream from an alum who’d recently visited Dubai pointing to an interesting article in the NYTimes about the use of robotic drones as sky taxis in Dubai. Here’s the model currently in test. You request a ride with your phone. The drone arrives. You put your briefcase in the trunk and crawl into the pod. You configure your destination and off you go. There is no pilot with the passenger. The drone is controlled by a remote center. The article suggests this might be in operation in July. If the concept plays out and these devices are able to go faster and farther and were such rides to become affordable imagine the roll they could play in helping is overcome our public transportation concerns to and from Decorah.

Frequently we think about robots like these. They are modelled after (parts of) people or animals. They are external to us. However, like the sky taxi drone there are many robots one gets into to experience its service. This was the second tidbit.

On the way into work I heard on MPR an interesting ad for a Japanese manufactured robotic massage chair called the Dreamwave. The ad was full of superlatives and suggested a real breakthrough from what you might find in a “coin operated” massage chair at the mall. A quick search to learn something about what the breakthrough enabling technologies might be in this product led me to an American made competitor called the Luraco Irobotics 7. This one even had an associated research paper testifying to the devices efficacy in reducing stress. It was written by a professor at Weber State University in Ogden Utah. I wasn’t familiar with with “WSU” and as a member of the Strategic Planning Committee I have been poking around on many colleges’ websites. I went to WSU’s site and sure enough - there was the massage chair and a video of a student using the chair at WSU’s Stress Relief Center.

Finally, one of my students emailed me to share with me that he wouldn’t be able to come to class due to stress. We hear more and more about student stress and the state of their strategies for managing and coping. I wondered what we might have at Luther regarding stress management. I was aware that one can reserve a massage by a person on campus. I also discovered we have a massage chair. In fact a search “stress” on Luther’s site and there are 539 entries. It is a topic that gets substantial of attention at Luther College.

It got me thinking about other issues such a technology might address in addition to relieving stress. Did you know there is an International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. (IJTMB) It says of itself, “IJTMB is  is an open access, peer-reviewed publication intended to accommodate the diverse needs of the rapidly-expanding therapeutic massage and bodywork community. Principal sections of the journal span the areas of research, education, and clinical practice.” Looking at recent publications I found this article “Utilizing Chair Massage to Address One Woman’s Health in Rural Ghana West Africa: a Case Report. The story is about using massage therapy to deal with the health consequences of head-panning, that is, carrying a heavy load of goods on one's head. Although this article is about results from a person performing the massaging using a chair instead of a table, one might imagine that at some point a robotic solution might be created. This might be significant when one realizes the degree to which women in Ghana transport goods with head-panning (average of 4.5 hours per day) and the impact on health doing this for most all of one’s life.

With time and investment, automation solutions will improve. Developers and manufacturers will run down “learning curves” leading to improved value. Perhaps both of these robotic vectors, that one gets into, will yield utility for Luther College.


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Suggested Reading/Viewing/Listening:

Dubai Plans a Taxi That Skips the Driver, and the Roads

Health Benefit Research for Luraco iRobotics 7 Medical Massage Chair

ITS Blog Highlights from the Week

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ITS Weekly is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of Information Technology Services at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

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