Open University ‘Gatekeeper’ Project Shows Potential of Robotics Use in Health and Social Care

The future of health and social care is being showcased by the Open University as part of a Europe-wide project to explore technological solutions to the challenges of care within populations.

Image Credit: Extend Robotics

The Open University’s project in Milton Keynes is one of eight pilot sites across Europe aiming to develop innovative community-based care services. The pilot forms part of Gatekeeper project focused on the new data-driven healthcare technologies for early detection of conditions, self-management and – particularly in this case – remote care for the elderly.

As part of their commitment to embrace new technological solutions, the Open University is partnering with UK startup Extend Robotics to trial robotics solutions that could support people to live independently in the community.

Extend Robotics was founded in 2019 by Dr Chang Liu. The tech firm uses consumer Virtual Reality (VR) technology like Oculus and SteamVR to make it easier for individuals to control robotics hardware remotely. It means non-technical users are able to benefit from full depth perception of 3D environments and accessible controls using intuitive arm-and-hand gestures in an immersive, real-time experience. 

The startup’s aim is to enable humans and machines to work together in perfect harmony. Dr Liu believes their partnership with the Gatekeeper project will demonstrate the key role robotic solutions can play in social and health services and support independent living.

The UK has an ageing population, with nearly 12 million people aged 65 and over – a number expected to rise to over 20 million within the next 50 years. In 2019/20 more than £8 billion was spent on social care for the elderly, with costs rising as demand increases. To combat this growing issue, the Government has published a 10-year adult social care plan that includes a significant focus on the use of technology to support individuals’ independent living.

Speaking about their new project, Extend Robotics’ CEO Dr Liu said:

“Our VR-based robotics solutions can have a positive impact on a huge range of real-world scenarios, none more so than healthcare services. There is immense potential for this technology to be developed further and used to support elderly members of the community to live independently.”

Speaking on behalf of the Knowledge Media Institute at the Open University, Research Associate Dr Alessio Antonini said:

“The Gatekeeper project is focused on improving health and social outcomes for people within the community. Technology will undoubtedly play a big role in the future of health and social care, and this demonstration is testament to what can be achieved.”

VR Teleoperation in the GATEKEEPER project

Source: https://www.extendrobotics.com/

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