Hello Robot

2024 IEEE IEEE Spectrum Technology in the Service of Society Award

Sponsored by IEEE Spectrum

“For Hello Robot’s Stretch robot.”

The goal of an affordable, useful, and versatile home robot has remained elusive for 65 years, at least. But a seven-year-old startup company, Hello Robot, has made one of the most impressive responses ever to the longstanding challenge. Their Stretch robot is a minimalist and rigorously practical approach, stripped of the complications that have doomed countless home robots so far. The machine consists of a mobile platform with a mast and a single arm that can travel up and down the mast and grasp objects with a simple manipulator. Sensors mounted on the base and a camera at the top of the mast provide the sensing needed to move around, execute obstacle avoidance, and manipulate small objects. The $25,000 robot has already proven to be an indispensable tool for people with severe disability, such as paralysis. A series of the Stretch robots have been operating for years in the household of one of the company’s advisors, Henry Evans, a person with quadriplegia, and his wife, Jane. Henry has been using the robot for a very wide variety of tasks, including feeding himself, transporting food from room to room, playing cards, scratching his head, and even presenting a flower to Jane. With the help of Henry and other contributors, Hello Robot is developing a technique they call assistive autonomy, which enables the user to team effectively with the robot to execute useful tasks without needing to specifically direct it through the myriad tiny movements required to complete the task.