Researchers in Europe have developed robotic assistance for the elderly as part of the CompanionAble integrated project. The four-year project was awarded EUR 7.8 million in funds under the EU Seventh Framework Programme 'Information and communication technologies' theme to the team comprising 19 specialist partners.
The project titled 'Integrated Cognitive Assistive and Domotic Companion Robotic Systems for Ability & Security' (CompanionAble), is being led by Professor Atta Badii of the University of Reading, UK.
A robotic companion named 'Hector' and intelligent home environment was developed by the research team, which will aid elderly people to live richer and more independent lives. The robot can respond to commands such as 'go to the kitchen', and 'follow me' interactively and can perform certain functions such as switching-on and switching-off lights, regulating central heating, opening and closing windows, and other such functions. It can detect appliances that have been switched on, and can open windows. The robot can remind users about taking their medicines on time, monitor moods and vital physiological signs.
The robot can remind owners about things to take while leaving the house. Further, it can help the elderly to interact with new smart environments. Hector can be integrated into remote care centres and smart home systems.
The robot can also assist the elderly in socializing through a video-telephone interface. They can connect the person to other people. When Hector detects an abnormal situation it will call up a destined 'remote response centre' number that can handle the situation.
Presently, the life expectation of the elderly has increased and relatively the medical assistance and care requirements have also increased due to medical conditions such as dementia. This poses a significant demand on the carers of the elderly, and both face social exclusion risk.
The CompanionAble can support assisted independent living. These systems have been installed in some demonstration homes and their study has demonstrated the feasibility of commercializing this technology.