Interview with Dr. Ramalatha Marimuthu, Senior Technical Member, IEEE
Dr. Ramalatha Marimuthu, with a teaching of 27 years, heads the Department of Information Technology in Kumaraguru College of Technology under Anna University, and has published six technical books and her research area is “Processor Architecturesusing Vedic Mathematics”.
Dr. Marimuthu was the first Indian to chair the international Women in Engineering Committee (2011 and 2012). She also chaired the Asia Pacific Region WIE for three years, as well as, launched an exclusive project called “Sangamam” for the transfer of technology to rural areas directed to deliver specific training programs for youth and women of selected villages and represented IEEE India in the Clinton Global Initiative’s Tech Delegation 2013 and 2014.
What is your specific area of study within the robotics industry?
Development of Embedded Control Systems for Assistive Technology based products.
How long have you worked in this area/the robotics industry in general?
I have worked on the area of embedded systems development for nearly 15 years out of which I have guided projects based on robotics using assistive technology. For example, with the help of a student, I developed a robot for escorting animals in the forest towards prey and water to reduce the risk of extinction of the species. This was developed in 2007.
Another project was developing a robotic leg for assisting patients suffering from drop foot. The project named Ankle foot orthosis was developed to automatically move the foot with the above neural disorder to the correct position to assist the patient in walking.
What projects/research are you currently involved with at the moment?
Recently we are developing an arm to help the patients immobilized through paralysis. This arm will move objects for the patient who cannot move from their bed. For helping them reach out to water or medicines etc., this robot will pick up the objects and move to the bed to place it in the reach of the patient.
In your opinion, what is the one area of robotics technology that is making the most significant impact for the greater good and for the overall benefit of humanity?
The robotics technology has made significant improvement and impact in the Assistive Technology where the technology is used for humanity. Systems for people with special needs, elderly and sick people and for hospitals have become essential now and the needs also differ from people to people and country to country. A device developed in USA may not be popular in India due to so many reasons like unawareness of technology, lower level of education for the users, device not being user friendly, superstitions and others. Hence it has become necessary for us to customize each produce based on the country and users. Thus Assistive Technology has the most impact because of robotics.
What do you think the future applications will be of this technology will be within the next 10 years?
It is definitely essential for the robotics to reach out to every area of science and technology and every nook and corner of the world. So in the next ten years the humanoids will be playing an important role in helping school students learn, engineers to create and medical personnel to provide more efficient healthcare. In addition hazardous operations and environments should be manned by robots. Though the reach of this technology may be in different levels in different parts of the earth, the impact of robots are going to be increasingly known everywhere. Already robots are performing miracles in space too and so that will be another important thrust area for the applications of Robots.
Is it possible to create a complete human robot which has a neuro stimulus brain of our current technology?
Yes, it is possible building humanoids for some applications, for example– helping students find self-teaching materials. There are systems which are used for moving a wheelchair with the help of our brain stimulus. When there is a possibility of controlling a wheelchair with brainwave, similarly, a chair can be replaced with a robot. It is on the way because when we can design something for people who have lost their mobility, augmented reality can also be based on cognitive strength of stimulus that people receive.
Training will be based on amount of stimulus they receive for a moment. For example, if a person is rehabilitating after a fracture, trying to move a finger, they can move with the help of augmented reality which makes it possible for them to think it’s their finger which is moving. Hence, anything can be controlled with bringing a training authority for neuro stimulus in the brain.
Can a robot with functionality of x rays, blood tests be built to place in ambulance cars?
Yes. The cars that we design, again, can be replaced – mobile humanoid robots.
It would exactly mean whether they will be able to adjust the machine to particular amount of rays that should be passed to the human and carry on to the placing of film and so on, extended to- placing a film if a person is there, to identify as soon as the plate is filled and switch on the machine, find out if x-ray has been done and finally remove the film and process it. For any of the robot connected work, monitoring system is a random check. Whether it is possible for them to use human cognizance depends on the adjustment on their position. So the positions have to be fed in. With the help of such systems which can be used to move chair and positions, we can identify correct positions of leg and toe to build an overall control system and rest can be controlled by machine itself.
Robots are already building systems for blood test and bringing oxygen systems to hazardous places like rocket launching sites, so it is possible to connect all of this together for ambulance cars as well.
Can you please tell us the use of robots in advancing human life qualities especially during disasters and calamities?
In Nepal, there is every possibility to explore such advancements with the help of robots. It is difficult for anyone to go inside the troubled area and bring out human bodies. There can be people. To bring out people alive from such areas is itself a fear that it might be dangerous for helpers.
Consider Tsunami – or small thunderstorms – where it is a common possibility for electric lines to get cutoff. So many wires hanging in places can cause casualties. Robots, in such situations can be moving around to check out electrical connections and where it can be possible to bring out restoration in the lines without risking more disaster.
Robotics has just started to grow in India. Is it possible to build a robot which can clean our city or our surrounding place and keep our places clean by keeping in mind the criteria of cleanliness, which is fully automated?
It is a great idea. The National University of Singapore has great Robotics tech wing-building exotic systems for exotic apps. For ex – automate sand art, robots for household chores. So it is indeed possible for us too to do so.