Title:
Robotic feeding system for physically challenged persons
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A robotic feeding system for physically challenged persons, having: a base rotatable about a first axis; a support on the base, the support being rotatable about a second axis, the second axis being perpendicular to the first axis; an extending member with a proximal end mounted to the support; and a food handling utensil mounted at a distal end of the extending member, wherein the distal end of the extending member is movable along a third axis, and wherein the third axis is perpendicular to the second axis.



Inventors:
Folcik, Charles (Ormond Beach, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/374980
Publication Date:
09/20/2007
Filing Date:
03/15/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47G21/08
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Primary Examiner:
ADAMS, GREGORY W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BUCHANAN, INGERSOLL & ROONEY PC (ALEXANDRIA, VA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A robotic feeding system, comprising: a base; a support on the base, the support being rotatable about a first axis; an extending member with a proximal end mounted to the support; and a food handling utensil mounted at a distal end of the extending member, wherein the distal end of the extending member is movable along a second axis, and wherein the first axis is different than the second axis.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the base is rotatable about a third axis, the third axis being different than the first axis

3. The system of claim 2, wherein the first axis is horizontal and the third axis is vertical.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein the food handling utensil is a fork.

5. The system of claim 1, wherein the food handling utensil is a spoon.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein the food handling utensil is a spork.

7. The system of claim 2, further comprising a tripod, wherein the base is mounted on top of the tripod.

8. The system of claim 2, further comprising a positioning system that moves the base about the third axis and the support about the first axis.

9. The system of claim 8, wherein the positioning system comprises a telescope positioning system.

10. The system of claim 8, further comprising a hand-held control that controls movement of the positioning system.

11. The system of claim 1, wherein the extending member is a car radio antenna assembly.

12. The system of claim 2, wherein the third axis is perpendicular to the first axis.

13. The system of claim 1, wherein the first axis is perpendicular to the second axis.

14. The system of claim 10, wherein the second axis is perpendicular to the third axis.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to machines that serve food to physically incapacitated or otherwise physically disadvantaged persons.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Mechanical systems currently exist for serving food to physically incapacitated or otherwise physically disadvantaged persons. Unfortunately, such systems tend to be large bulky systems that are complex to operate.

Typically, mechanical feeding systems are really food dispensers, rather than food servers. For example, many mechanical feeding systems simply dispense food from the distal end of a tube. This substantially limits what particular types of foods the person is able to receive with the feeding system.

What would instead be desired is a simple and easy to operate mechanical system that simulates the motions of a physically unimpaired person by picking up standard food from a plate and then serving the food to the user.

In addition, it would be preferably that such feeding system is very easy to operate by a user, such that a physically disadvantaged person is able to feed himself/herself with little or no assistance from others.

SUMMARY

The present invention provides a simple and convenient machine that picks up and serves food to a person who is physically challenged.

In one preferred embodiment, the present invention provides a robotic feeding system for physically challenged persons, comprising: a base rotatable about a first axis; a support on the base, the support being rotatable about a second axis, the second axis being perpendicular to the first axis; an extending member with a proximal end mounted to the support; and a food handling utensil mounted at a distal end of the extending member, wherein the distal end of the extending member is movable along a third axis, and wherein the third axis is perpendicular to the second axis.

Preferably, the first axis is vertical and the second axis is horizontal. As such, the base pans (i.e. moves) side-to-side, the support moves vertically up and down, and the distal end of the extending member moves in-and-out (i.e.: away from the base and support).

The food handling utensil may be a fork, spoon, spork, or other suitable utensil.

In preferred embodiments, a tripod onto which the base is mounted is also included. Additionally, a positioning system may optionally be included to move the base about the first axis and the support about the second axis.

The present inventor has built and successfully operated the present invention using a telescope positioning system as the positioning system, and a car radio antenna assembly as the extending member. This positioning system was operated using a hand-held control that controls movement of the telescope positioning system.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the present invention ready to pick up food from a plate.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the present invention ready to serve food to a physically challenged person.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A robotic feeding system 10 is provided to serve food, for example, to a physically challenged person. System 10 includes a base 12, a support 14, an extending member 16 and a food handling utensil 18, as shown. Preferably, base 12 is rotatable about a first axis A1. However, the base does not need to be rotatable. Support 14 is mounted onto base 12, with support 14 being rotatable about a second axis A2. Preferably, second axis A2 is perpendicular to the first axis A1, as shown. Extending member 16 has a proximal end 17 mounted to support 14; and a food handling utensil 18 mounted at a distal end 19 of extending member 16. The distal end 19 of extending member 16 is movable along a third axis A3, as shown. Preferably, third axis A3 is perpendicular to second axis A2.

Optionally, first axis A1 is vertical and second axis A2 is horizontal. It is to be understood, however, that the present invention is not so limited.

Optionally, the food handling utensil 18 may be a fork, as shown. Alternately, however, food handling utensil 18 may be a spoon, spork, or other suitable utensil.

In optional embodiments, system 10 further includes a tripod 20 onto which base 12 is mounted. It is to be understood, however, that the present invention is not so limited. For example, the present invention may also be positioned on top of a table, or counter, or as an attachment to a bed or wheelchair.

Optionally, system 12 further includes a positioning system 22 that moves base 12 about first axis A1 and also moves support 14 about second axis A2. Alternatively, separate positioning systems may be provided for base 12 and support 14.

In one embodiment of the invention built and operated by the present inventor, positioning system 20 was built from a Meadeā„¢ telescope positioning system. Positioning system 20 may further include a hand-held control 22 that controls movement of positioning system 20. However, any suitable positioning system may be used. In addition, the control switch for the positioning system may be of any suitable type, known to those of skill in the art. Preferably, a control switch can be selected to accommodate the physical disabilities of the intended user.

In the embodiment extending member 16 was built from a telescoping car radio antenna assembly.

An advantage of the present invention is that the proximal end 17 of extending member 16 remains at substantially the same location in space during the time that food is picked up and served to the user. As such, the present invention operates with movement in only three axes (A1, A2 and A3). Such movement is very easy for a user to control. This is especially important in the case of physically challenged users, since such individuals are typically limited in the commands that they are able to give to their feeding systems. With the present invention, such persons need only control movement of the feeding utensil in three axes. Three axis movement is very intuitive since movement in each axis can be controlled sequentially.

Movement of the feeding system is illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2 as follows. In FIG. 1, the system is ready to pick up food from a plate. The user extends extending member 16 (along its longitudinal axis A3) such that food handling utensil 18 picks up food on the plate on the table. Next, as show in FIG. 2, the user rotates support 14 upwardly around second axis A2 and further extends member 16 (along its longitudinal axis A3) such that food handling utensil 18 is positioned to place the food in the mouth of a user sitting behind the table.

An advantage of the present invention is that a user typically need only move the system components of the device in two axes. Specifically, the user may only need to rotate support 14 about axis A2 and extend/retract member 16 along axis A3. Such two axis movement would occur when the user sits directly in front of the feeding system. Preferably, the proximal end 17 of extending member 16 is positioned at approximately the same height as the physically challenged person's head. Such positioning would further facilitate easy feeding of the user.

In various embodiments, the present invention may be positioned on a free-standing tripod 20 that is positioned on the ground, as illustrated. Alternatively, however, system 10 may instead be positioned on a podium, pedestal or tabletop.

Although the present invention has been described in connection with preferred embodiments thereof, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that additions, deletions, modifications, and substitutions not specifically described may be made without department from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.