Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) have created a computer-controlled robotic arm designed to help wheelchair-bound people perform actions such as grasping and lifting objects. It has both an automatic mode, in which the computer identifies objects and figures out how to grasp them, and an option for full manual control. When physically-challenged people were selected to try the device out, the researchers were surprised to discover that most of them preferred going manual. It’s all about something called Flow.
In manual mode, test subjects had to think several steps ahead, and either type instructions on a keyboard, or use precise verbal commands. It took longer than going automatic, and the end result wasn’t any better. Nonetheless, they preferred it.
“We focused so much on getting the technology right,” said UCF Assistant Professor Aman Behal. “We didn’t expect this.”
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