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GeckoSystems on Elder Care Robot Trials

GeckoSystems announced their CEO’s interview this week on one of the UK’s BBC radio stations. The topic was the benefits of using personal service robots for elder care. GeckoSystems has been conducting elder care robot trials for about a year now. GeckoSystems has developed a personal robot, the CareBot, to be created for the mass consumer marketplace. Conspicuous in the market since 1997, the suite of primary inventions includes: GeckoNav, GeckoChat and GeckoTrak.

"We are humbled and gratified to have had this opportunity to speak to many UK and other EU citizens about the family benefits of personal assistant robots, such as our CareBot(TM). We consider the very desirable goal of enabling our elderly family members to stay independent in their own homes longer to be very important to literally hundreds of thousands of care givers. This kind of international recognition for our ten plus years of hard, ground breaking work is very satisfying," observed Martin Spencer, President/CEO, GeckoSystems Intl. Corp.

Elder Care Robot Trial Video 2, Stationary View

Ms. Clare Walker, BBC Radio Current Affairs, interviewed Spencer for the daily (12 noon) consumer affairs program, "You and Yours" earlier this week. During the interview held at an Atlanta radio station, she asked many questions pertaining to the varied roles and functions played by the Carebot, its cost and the extent to which it can simulate a humane caregiver or be emotional. She also queried the CEO about the market competition the company face3d and the resistance a Carebot might face from elderly care receivers.

"The BBC radio interview is our first European Union (EU) radio station inquiry. While we did not solicit this interview, we are appreciative of the UK's understanding than many industrialized nations have a growing elder care crisis. In the last few months we have had other elder care robot trial inquiries regarding UK interest in conducting pilot programs to reduce elder care costs with GeckoSystems' CareBots. We are hopeful that this UK and potentially EU exposure will lead to more inquiries and business relationships in the EU due to the wide listening audience of BBC Radio 4 in London," reflected Spencer.

Laying all doubts to rest Spencer went on to answering all questions one by one. "Our CareBot's ability to verbally remind a designated care receiver at predetermined dates and times that their blood pressure/pulse rate needs to be checked by an optional third-party (Ed. note, not GeckoSystems). Onboard, integrated robotic sensor system will enable a higher level of safety, security and cost savings for those at home, or in nursing homes, assisted care facilities, and/or hospitals. Since our CareBots can also run unattended errands and/or automatically follow a designated care receiver, the cost savings to the care giver person or organization is even greater for our customers” stated Spencer.

The CareBot is made from steel, aluminium, plastic, and electronics, but with ten to twenty times the amount of software running. Its structure comprises an aluminium frame, plastic shroud, two independently driven wheels, multiple sensor systems, microprocessors and several onboard computers connected by a local area network (LAN). The microprocessors directly interact with the sensor systems and transmit data to the onboard computers. The onboard computers each run independent, highly specialized cooperative/subsumptive artificial intelligence (AI) software programs, GeckoSavants, which interact to complete tasks in a timely, intelligent and in a manner of common sense. So what does a CareBot do for the caregiver? It is a new type of labour saving, time management automatic home appliance.

Time stress is much tremendous for the caregiver with a frail elderly parent that must be reminded to take medications at certain times of the day. How can the caregiver be away for 3-4 hours when Grandma must take her prescribed medication every 2 or 3 hours? If the caregiver is trapped in traffic for an hour or two beyond the 2 or 3 they expected to be gone, this "time stress" can be very difficult for the caregiver to moderate.

Mostly, the primary caregiver has a 24 hour, 7 days a week responsibility. After weeks and weeks of this sometimes tedious, if not onerous routine, how does the caregiver get a "day off?" To bring in an outsider is expensive (easily $75-125 per day for just 8 hours) and there is the concern that medication will be missed or the care receiver have an accident requiring immediate assistance by the caregiver, or someone they must designate. And the care receiver may be very resistant to a stranger coming in to her home and "running things."

So perhaps an automatic caregiver, a CareBot, might be pretty handy and potentially very cost effective from the primary caregiver's perspective.

What a CareBot Does for the Care Receiver is that it always stays close to the care receiver, enabling family and friends to care for them from afar. It tells them jokes, retells family anecdotes, reminds them to take medication, and reminds them that family is coming over soon (or not at all), recites Bible verses, plays favourite songs and/or other music. It alerts them when unexpected visitors or intruders are present. It notifies designated caregivers when a potentially harmful event has occurred, such as a fall, fire in the home, or simply been not found by the CareBot for too long. It responds to calls for help and notifies those that the caregiver determined should be immediately notified when any predetermined adverse event occurs.

The family can customize the personality of the CareBot. The voice's cadence can be fast or slow. The intonation can be breathy, or abrupt. The voice's volume can range from very loud to very soft. The response phrases from the CareBot for recognized words and phrases can be colloquial and/or unique to the family's own heritage. The personality can range from brassy to timid depending on how the caregiver, and others appropriate, chooses it to be.

GeckoSystems has focused on mobile robot safety for over ten years. Their first product, a family care robot, has multiple layers of safety precautions. These safeguards are enabled three ways: mechanical, electronic, and using computer software. First, the robot is very stable and difficult to tip over since nearly seventy percent of its weight is less than eight inches above the floor and sits low between large, ten-inch diameter wheels. The wheels are wide and soft enough such that if the robot did go over a child's arm, for example, it would not break the skin or any bones. Second, multiple layers of sensors are fused to provide a safety umbrella to enable actionable situational awareness. Going outward from the centre of the CareBot is the GeckoTactileShroud(TM), which detects where on its shroud it has been bumped by people or animals. The CompoundedSensorArray(TM) detects virtually everything in the front and to the sides of this fully autonomous mobile robot up to thirty inches. Obstacles more distant are detected by twin ultrasonic rangefinders. Third, the advanced AI navigation software, GeckoNav(TM), takes in the hundreds of sensor readings per second and using its high level situational awareness, consistently avoids unforeseen static and/or dynamic obstacles for safe movements.

Also in the care giving family of Gecko robots there are the GeckoSuper, GeckoNav, GeckoChat, GeckoScheduler and GeckoTrak are primary, high level GeckoSavants. The GeckoNav is responsible for manoeuvring, avoiding dynamic and/or static obstacles, seeking waypoints and patrolling. GeckoChat interacts with the care-receiver such as answering questions, assisting with daily routines and reminders, and responding to other verbal commands. GeckoTrak, which is mostly transparent to the user, enables the CareBot to maintain proximity to the care-receiver using sensor fusion. The CareBot is a new type of Internet appliance, a personal assistant life support robot, that is accessible for remote video/audio monitoring and telepresence.

The primary market for this product is the family involved in eldercare, care for the chronically ill, and childcare. The primary distribution channel for this new home appliance is the thousands of independent personal computer retailers in the U.S. The manufacturing infrastructure for this new product category of mobile service robots is essentially the same as the personal computer industry. Several outside contract manufacturers have been identified and qualified their ability to produce up to 1,000 CareBots per month within four to six months.

Subsequent to, and based on that original market research, they have assembled numerous focus groups to evaluate the fit of the CareBot personal robot into the participant's lives and their expected usage.

"GeckoSystems' increasing visibility in the EU and the continuing positive reaction to our innovative mobile robot solutions and products allows it the opportunity to become established as a significant player in the EU, also. With the right EU partners we will be able to supply cost effective solutions for security, family care, etc. and to develop other products tailored for the EU marketplace and the rest of the world. As we have stated on numerous occasions, we expect technology-licensing revenues to precede product sales revenues. We may become cash flow positive and net profitable, sooner than what our contract manufacture and sale of CareBots will enable. We care very much that our approximately 1400 stockholders enjoy a satisfying ROI after supporting us through our very difficult Developmental Stage exacerbated by the Great Recession," concluded Spencer.

By the end of this year, the Company plans to complete product of its CareBot offering with the introduction of its fourth generation personal robot, the CareBot 4.0 MSR.

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