Louisville Automation and Robotics Research Institute (LARRI)

Image courtesy Dr. Dan Popa, University of Louisville

There are some pretty amazing things going on at the UofL J.B. Speed School of Engineering. This week we’ll talk about the Louisville Automation and Robotics Research Institute (LARRI).

Led by Dr. Dan Popa, professor of electrical and computer engineering, LARRI is a multi-disciplinary team of faculty, staff, and students who are combining their expertise in the area of automation and robotics. They are working to provide solutions for manufacturing, healthcare, and logistics challenges.

Louisville Future spoke to Dr. Popa about two important initiatives the group is currently working on.

ARNA

“ARNA (Adaptive Robotic Nursing Assistant), created through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), is an artificially intelligent robot that is designed to help nurses carry out the more routine physical tasks in hospital environments. This allows nurses to focus more on direct patient care,” Dr. Popa said. “Our aim is not to replace healthcare workers with robots, but rather to help them in areas where they are overworked or are exposed to dangerous pathogens.”

Although ARNA was originally invented to help nurses with round-the-clock patient monitoring, the team pivoted when COVID-19 became an issue. One of the adjustments made to ARNA was the addition of an ultraviolet disinfecting light and sprayable sanitizing agent that allows it to clean commonly touched surfaces where the virus might live, such as handles, tables, and elevator buttons.

“The LARRI team has been working nonstop to modify the bot. This is work that is definitely something that will continue because the need for it is crucial,” Dr. Popa said.

Autism work

LARRI is also at work developing human-like robots that are interacting with children at the UofL Autism Center. “We are working on new interventions that will increase the social skills of these children,” Dr. Popa said. The research is funded by Kentucky NSF EPSCoR and Smart and Connected Health Autism grants.

Jacob Berichevsky, a graduate student working on his Master of Science in electrical engineering, works in the Social Robotics lab.

“The main thing I am currently working on is helping create a program that can assess the motion quality of a subject [in real time]. This could then potentially be used as a diagnosis tool for subjects with autism spectrum disorder (ASD),” he said. “I personally enjoy working on the cutting edge of technology, and creating things that can be useful for people.”

Indeed, Popa stresses, LARRI wants to make a connection between “graduates’ theoretical education and hands-on, practical applications to local industry.”