Stitches deserve a makeover. We've been using them in some form for thousands of years. So while they've stood the test of time, a researcher from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is wrestling surgical sutures into the future by creating "smart" electronic versions. They can monitor sutured sites for infection, and even help in the healing process.
In a small, sparsely furnished room, a young boy in a black T-shirt backs himself into a corner. He's cautious. Cameras capture his movements, and microphones record every sound. But this doesn't intimidate him; he doesn't even seem aware that he's being observed. His mom, sitting nearby, is not the object of his focus either. Brian (his name has been changed here to protect his privacy) is autistic, and he's staring across the room at a two-wheeled, gray, humanoid robot with big, cartoonish eyes.
For five years now the ill and elderly in Japan and Europe have had adorable, furry, sensor-ridden robotic seals to speed recover and improve health. Two months ago PAROs arrived stateside and are gaining traction in nursing homes and hospitals across the country. At $6,000 a pop, they're not cheap, but they also don't smell, bite, require training, or cough up an unexpected hairball. Similar to that other four-letter robot, PARO has sensors that track everything from touch to light to posture and learns from human interaction. Stroke the thing and it remembers what action caused the positive feedback. Smack it, and it won't repeat the "bad" behavior which preceded the beatdown.
Why seals? "People don't have many interactions with them," explained a PARO robots spokesperson. "They won't be let down by any preconceptions they might have."
See the cutie in action, after the jump.