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Encouraging Accessibility with Your Robotics Hobby

Posted by basicmicro on February 5th, 2019

Dabbling in robotics can be an excellent source of fun. Most enthusiasts end up building themselves at least one “toy” of some kind, be it an RC car using a brushed DC motor controller, a quadcopter, a battle-bot, or something for the kids.

Then, you have those who build interesting case studies. A robot that can track and follow. A robot that can do a set series of tasks with responsive coding fed through a motor controller to allow it some level of autonomous control when facing obstacles. These robots are often not built for a specific real-life purpose, instead being used as a means to learn something new or prove a concept.

As new things are uncovered and we learn more and more about what robotics can do for the individual instead of only the business, there comes a point where you realize one interesting fact: This can be used for good.

Accessibility can be a scary word. For those who need it in their daily life, they notice when it’s not there. For those who are able-bodied, they don’t notice and often don’t care. This isn’t a personal failing; it’s just a consequence of not being forced to come to terms with your limitations.

It used to be the case that buildings were often inaccessible to those with disabilities. Something as simple as a ramp was an afterthought in the past, an exception for a friend instead of something mandated for every public building. With electronics came automated doors and even silent alarms.

But these are all real applications using industrial products. They exist outside of the robotics hobby. So where does the hobby fit in?

Principles of Motion Control

Above, automated doors were mentioned. While these aren’t necessarily robots, they do rely on the same principles of motion control. You need a motor, electricity, and some type of sensor that lets you know there’s a need for the door to open and close. Grocery stores use motion sensors while office buildings use the button signal.

If you need this functionality in the home, you’re often out of luck. Purchasing an equivalent door, or several, can cost several thousand dollars in material and installation. It’s a nightmare of a process.

How Can a Hobby Help?

You might be asking yourself how this relates to a hobby. It would be unreasonable, after all, to expect those who build fun robots to dedicate themselves to building accessibility aids for the disabled. Not only is that impossible to truly accomplish, but it defeats the purpose of a hobby. You just want to tinker with your motor controller, after all.

Instead, what you should consider here is the following theory: If enthusiasts in the robotics space can prove concepts, perhaps they can apply this to the eternal accessibility conundrum. You may not be able to provide the accessibility aid, but you can pressure the market to provide.

By perfecting DIY methods of automating doors in the home, or in organizing different medications, or maybe even developing a “helper” bot that uses a brushed DC motor controller, you can not only stay within the spirit of your hobby but also continue proving concepts (e.g., how do you organize medications that are similar in size and colour?) while providing an eventual lifeboat for disabled people.

Once people know something is possible, it’s more likely that a mass market version can become a reality. This is rare, even in today’s world, and robotics enthusiasts can help out. All it takes is a small change.

Also See: Motor Controller, Robotics Hobby, Motion Control, Encouraging Accessibility, Hobby, Robotics, Accessibility

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