Anyone with kids knows that getting them to eat healthy can be a challenge. That challenge is compounded if your child has a disease like diabetes, where their diets must be strictly managed.

That’s where Belgium-based IDLab thinks robots can help, especially for older kids who are a little more independent. In the video below, IDLab demonstrates how a home robot working in conjunction with a connected cooking device like mealhero’s can help people with diabetes watch their carbohydrate intake and regulate their insulin accordingly.

The video shows more of a use case scenario, rather than a full-blown production level solution (it also over-simplifies the carbs in carrots). It’s also pretty complicated, requiring the robot, a mealhero meal plan and steamer, a connected food scale and a calculator to figure out the carb count of a meal to enter into an insulin pump.

But it’s easy to see from this proof-of-concept where the technology could eventually go. The robot provides a “friendly” interface to guide the child or whomever through a meal planning process. A product like mealhero works in this scenario because it has a standardized set of ingredients that are shipped individually and its connected cooking device automatically cooks the food. Similar companies like Tovala, Suvie or Brava could provide the same type of meal+connected appliance.

Given these basic building blocks, there’s no reason the process couldn’t work with any number of diseases that require adherence to a particular diet.

When we write about robots, there are often two big caveats: first is that there will be a human employment cost as automation continues; second, useful robotics applications in the home are still a ways off in the future. What IDLab is demonstrating here is that food-related robots can actually be helpful to people and while clunky, that robotic future is closer to today than some distant tomorrow.

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  1. Hi Chris,
    thanks for the nice article and quoting the linkedin post! About the simplification of carrots, I quote here the comment of prof. Gies from the UZ Brussel hospital (project lead of the ROBO-CURE research project) on the linkedin post: ‘As a simplification in the first education of newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes kids (= also targeted group within the ROBO-CURE project), we teach them that vegetables in general do not contain carbs. Since the portion size of carb containing vegetables intake is rather small in kids, and other influencing factors such as insulin injection, physical activity, illness, therapy compliance, glycemic index etc are far more important to deal with in order to obtain a perfect glycemic control, we rather focus on these factors first. In a later phase, for some of the patients, we fine-tune the carb counting. So in summary, the carb counting in the video is shown as programmed and intended, rather than an artefact of the video editing.’
    And indeed, we are working in the reseach project towards proof-of-concepts for field trials with real patients, rather than off-the-shelf products.

    Press event of the full project results on June 14th.


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