Video: PR2 Helps a Paraplegic Man Scratch an Itch, and Perform Other Helpful Tasks

Here’s a heartwarming story about one of our favorite robots, the adorable PR2. We’ve already seen it performing cute household tasks like folding laundry and baking cookies, but now PR2 is serving a decidedly more useful function: helping a paraplegic man help himself.

Henry Evans suffered a brain stem stroke at age 40 and is now paraplegic. He was able to regain the use of one finger and can slightly move his head, which allows him to use computers. His wife, Jane, helps him with every other task.

Last year, Evans saw a PR2 on the news and wondered whether one could help him with simple functions, so he contacted Willow Garage and Georgia Tech professor Charlie Kemp, according to Willow Garage’s blog.

For the past year, the team has been working on various new interfaces and programs to help Evans perform more tasks on his own, through the Robots For Humanity project. Small movements of his head and finger can control the PR2 and direct it to perform tasks autonomously, like rolling around a building, opening drawers and putting items away. With the PR2’s help, Evans was able to scratch an itch on his face and shave himself for the first time in 10 years.

In terms of bringing robotic assistance into the average household, these are small steps, as Willow Garage’s president and CEO, Steve Cousins, points out in the video below. But to someone like Evans, they’re a huge leap.

[via Willow Garage]