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The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institute of Health (NIH), awarded Hello Robot with a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant worth approximately $2.5 million.
Hello Robot creates assistive mobile manipulator robots that aim to help aging adults with cognitive and physical impairments. With the grant, the company hopes to further develop its Stretch Cognitive and Physical Assistant.
Stretch is a slender and versatile mobile manipulator that can operate autonomously. Stretch 2, the latest version of the robot, has a 109 cm vertical range of motion, and a telescoping arm that can extend 52 cm beyond its base. The robot’s wrist extends this reach so that the robot can reach the back of a countertop.
Hello Robot hopes that Stretch can be a friendly, affordable and capable helper for older adults struggling with a range of physical and cognitive impairments.
“Caregiving is in crisis,” Hello Robot CEO Dr. Aaron Edsinger said in a release. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to arrange care for older family members living at home. Robots such as Stretch hold incredible promise to augment the caregiving workforce, allowing loved ones to age-in-place at home for longer.”
The grant builds on a Phase I NIH award. With the previous grant, Hello Robot worked with a research team at the University of Illinois, led by Dr. Wendy Rogers. The team showed that Stretch was able to provide meaningful assistance to an individual with quadriplegia.
The new grant aims to expand on this previous work and test Stretch’s capabilities in helping people with mild cognitive impairment with both physical and cognitive tasks.
“This award brings together an incredible team – working together towards a shared vision where robots like Stretch can enhance life for everyone, including children, older adults, and people with disabilities,” Edsinger said in a release.
Hello Robot also plans to make changes to its remote control interface so that it can be used by caregivers. The grant will also help the company develop more autonomous activities for Stretch and explore Stetch’s utility in a variety of home and assisted living environments.