“I tell people ALS stands for Always Losing Something. Obi has given me something back,” Hare said in the video. Speaking about the device, which retails for a $4,500 on its website, Hare added that you can’t put a price tag on the sense of independence—however small—that it can provide. Every year, more than 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS, according to the ALS Association. Currently, 30,000 Americans are affected by the disease that typically only gives people two to five years to live since the time of diagnosis.

The autonomy Obi can provide is empowering for the differently abled. To operate the device, users can attach two accessibility switches to it—one allows them to toggle between the different food compartments and another triggers the arm to feed. Its rechargeable battery lasts two to four hours. The robotic arm has the agility to scrape the sides of bowls to pick up differently textured items, from bigger grapes to finer rice grains. If Obi’s arm is obstructed by any object before it reaches its destination, the device backs away and waits for the feeding command again. 

Co-robots like Obi aren’t an entirely new phenomenon: The US government has funded research for a handheld device to help the visually impaired identify and grasp objects and a “smart-walker” for seniors and people with mobility impairments. A personal robot that can be controlled by eye and finger movement can shave, scratch and even fetch towels for the differently abled. But when it comes to feeding, there hasn’t been much progress.

“I could sit across and look at my wife now and feed myself and let her enjoy her meal,” said Hare. “It was just wonderful that I could find something that would lessen the load on her. It changed the direction of my life.”

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