MIT’s newest robot can help elderly people get dressed

A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a robotic arm that can slide one arm of a vest onto a person. And that’s more impressive than it may initially sound.

A few years ago, I was eating in a retirement home cafeteria when a woman in her eighties called me over and asked me to help put on her cardigan. I said no problem, then grabbed a sleeve and tried to get it on her arm. That’s when I realized that her body had stiffened over the years, and her back was hunched. I didn’t know how to line up the geometry between her arm and the sleeve without injuring her.

“You’re not gonna break me!” she quipped, reading my indecision. And so I bent her limbs and shoulders harder than I would have thought safe. After a minute of nervous coaxing, her cardigan was on, and she returned to her lunch.


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