If you were born in the 1960s, or you've spent much time watching Nick at Nite, you'll have no trouble placing these TV icons: Rosie the Maid from The Jetsons and Robot B-9 from Lost in Space. They, along with the gold-plated c3p0 from Star Wars were more than just mechanical labor-savers; they had personalities. They became friends to the people around them.
Two out-of-state companies have donated robots to the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute that may move humans a little closer to friendship with the machines that help them with daily tasks. If not friendship then certainly gratitude.
Built by RE2 of Pittsburgh, PA, the "robotic nursing assistant" instantly reminded me of Rosie, the Jetsons' maid, when I saw it (dare I say "her") lifting a pair of dumbbells in the foyer of UTAs Assistive Robotics Lab in east Fort Worth. The seven-foot-tall machine was designed to help move patients from bed to gurney in a hospital setting, but the lab will work to design other uses for the "assistant" in the homes of elderly or disabled people.
The second donated robot is known as a "Dragon Runner" and recently was retired from the battlefield, where it helped U.S. military personnel to find and disarm Improvised Explosive Devices. That robot, too, may have civilian applications that extend its life beyond a wartime setting.
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I always assumed that we would all have robots doing our chores for us when we grew up. I may have missed the date by a couple of decades, but now, thanks to research underway at UTA, it looks as though I'll have a mechanical friend helping me out when I'm a senior citizen.