€500k appeal to build robot for Joanne
TECHNOLOGY experts are hoping to secure at least €500,000 to build a fully-functioning robot for a young woman born with no arms or legs.
A team from Trinity College's School of Engineering unveiled a more basic €50,000 machine last month at the premiere of a film about 17-year-old Joanne O'Riordan.
But the robot, which had been constructed in less than four months, failed to function properly when it appeared on stage due to a computer crash.
Experts now say they are confident that a substantial cash injection would allow them to develop a far more sophisticated and autonomous robot, which would be even capable of making its own decisions.
Prof Kevin Kelly, who is leading the project, is due to have discussions with UN representatives in the coming weeks about securing further funding.
But he said he was confident his team of robotics experts would be able to complete the development of the complex device in two years.
And he said that if successful, the completed robot, which would respond to verbal commands, could be further developed commercially to help paraplegics and quadraplegics worldwide.
He said: "We were up against a brutally tight deadline to build a robot before the premiere, as we only received confirmation of the €50,000 funding from the UN last June.
"It's hugely complex, and it was never realistic that we would get this completed in just a few months."
Joanne, from Millstreet, Co Cork, who is one of only seven people in the world with the rare condition Total Amelia Syndrome, famously called on the UN last year for technology experts to build her a robot.
The humanoid model that was unveiled at the premiere of the movie, No Limbs, No Limits at Cork Opera House last month, had a head with facial features, arms, a torso and wheels on one large leg.