Dayton robot reaps design award

The Dayton-made “Obi” robot has been selected as the “gold winner” in the rehabilitation and assistive-technology products category of the 20th Annual Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEA) competition, the Dayton company DESĪN LLC said.

The 2018 winning products were announced in a ceremony Tuesday in New York.

Obi is a robotic device that restores a more independent dining experience for individuals that lack upper extremity function.

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The robot has an attached, jointed arm can be programmed to lift a magnetized spoon filled with food from one of Obi’s compartments or bowls to a person’s mouth.

It is designed, developed, and manufactured in Dayton by DESĪN.

“Winning this award has been a decade-long held dream – we are incredibly honored, and I’m incredibly proud of the team, which includes our contractors and suppliers.” said Jon Dekar, the company’s founder, chief executive and the inventor of Obi.

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This isn’t the first time Obi has been noticed. The device was a winner in 2016 in the 54th annual R&D 100 awards, arranged by R&D magazine, in the awards’ “mechanical and materials” category.

Dekar told this news outlet in 2016 that Obi had been years in the making, springing from early ideas he had as a high-schooler and as a University of Dayton engineering student. He had watched his grandfather suffer from a degenerative neuro-muscular disease.

“I saw him slowly decline to the point where he would have to be fed by my grandmother,” Dekar said at the time. “And he hated it.”

The key to Obi is adaptability, its creators say. Even if a diner can’t move a limb, the ability to wiggle a toe, blink an eye or even wrinkle a forehead can trigger available switches to launch Obi’s robotic arm, Dekar said.

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