Mind-controlled wheelchairs, talking teddys feature at Dubai tech show

Drones and Robots for Good competition 2016 (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

The second annual UAE Drones for Good competition has seen a massive increase in the number of entrants, and this year the competition has been expanded to include the inaugural AI and Robots for Good competition.

The event, held at Dubai Media City has seen entrants from across the world, exhibit a range of drones and robots that serve a number of often life changing - or lifesaving devices and systems.

These have included a system that allows quadriplegics to drive electric wheelchairs with their minds, a Teddy bear that helps improve the social skills of autistic children and a drone that dispatches infertile male mosquitos to help fight diseases such as Zika.

Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation and Coordinator General of the UAE Drones for Good Award, Saif Al-Aleeli said there had been a significant increase in the number of entrants and countries.

Drones for good (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

Drones for good (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

“We have seen the number of entrants increase from 800 from 57 countries inn 2015 to 1,017 from 165 this time around,” he explained.

“The projects this year are smarter, they are more advance in terms of the technology and the services they can provide,” He said the focus of the competition remained on the peaceful advancement of the use of drones and robotics.

“We only about the use of these technology for the good of the world.”

He said the competition would continue, but would advance further to become more than just an award, using the scheme to educate students in the future use of such devices for the good of society.

Not everyone is going to win - but those who don’t often still have promising futures ahead with their projects.

One such case, which is likely to catch on was the international Drones for Good entrant from Spectair Group.

Drones for good (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

Drones for good (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

The Remotely Operated Mosquito Emission Operation (ROMEO) has been designed to carry infertile male mosquitos into disease hotspots where they are released. These then attempt to mate with the females and the insects die out in the targeted areas.

Spokesman for the scheme, Marius Schroder explained: “Our system is particularly relevant at the moment with the ongoing spread of Zika. We know the system works because we have used it with other species to eradicate parasites elsewhere.”

The drone they exhibit at the event can carry up to 25,000 sterile male mosquitos, but the one they use in practice carries a massive 250,000 of the blood sucking insects.

It’s a significant impact on a community if the diseased mosquitos are exterminated in an area, considering that the creatures are still responsible for the most amount of deaths around the world - 750,000 people die each year from mosquito related diseases.

In the robotic competition there have been an equally large number of entrees from life impacting inventions.

Emirati, Reem al-Marzouqui, is an architectural engineer by trade, but in her free time she has created what looks on first glance - like an oversized Teddy bear.

Drones for good (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

Drones for good (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

But she has actually created a robot that is used to help improve the social skills of autistic children.

“In the UAE two percent of newborns are born with autism. As they get older they become more introverted and find it hard to communicate,” Marzouqui explained.

Using a remote control system through an app in their phone, the child’s parents can speak to them through Teddy bear. The child will find this a lot easier than speaking directly with an adult, while picking up the basic necessary communication skills to help them in life.”

Keeping with the theme of social, B-Motion, a team of electrical engineering graduates based in the UAE, have created a neurological sensor that can be used by quadriplegics to drive wheelchairs.

Drones for good (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

Drones for good (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

Team member, Omar Said, explained the reasons that drove them to create the device: “At the moment people who don’t have the use of their legs and arms and are wheelchair-bound are reliant on a breathing system that tells the wheelchair where to go.

But it is not always easy for people who are quadriplegic to get enough breath to be able to use such a device. However our creation is warn on the head of the person and reads the electrical brainwaves that then move the wheelchair in the direction they want to go.”

B-Motion go through to the finals on Saturday, when they will compete for the UAE AI and Robots for Good 1 mln AED prize.

Drones are widely thought of in a more negative light, robots tend to have the feel of something out of science fiction.

But team MIT Hermes, who traveled from Boston, USA to compete in the international AI and Robots for Good completion, are currently working on a robot that can gain access to disaster zone too dangerous for people, while being operated remotely from a safe place.

Drones for good (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

Drones for good (Photo: Peter Harrison/Al Arabiya English)

Professor Sangbae Kim said the idea behind the invention of their robot came from the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, after the reactor was hit by a devastating tsunami that caused the cooling system to shut down that in turn led to an explosion at the plant.

“If our robot had existed at the time, it could have gone into the power plant and restarted the cooling system, which probably would have prevented the explosion of the reactor.”

The MIT Hermes entry was chosen as one of the finalists for Saturday. Speaking earlier to Al Arabiya English, Sangbae explained that the device on show was only a prototype.

“When we get out there on the stage we will explain to the judges that there is probably another five years to go before this can be put to use. Our hope is to use the funding to help us develop the system.”

The competition continues on Saturday with the finals for the drones and robot finalists.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47