Ro­bots help el­derly at home

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - PRODUCT WATCH -

Kalana Ishara Withanage at the Univer­sity of Ade­laide has teamed up with en­gi­neer­ing and health ex­perts from the univer­sity to de­velop a to help el­derly peo­ple get back on their feet af­ter a fall at home.

The tech­nol­ogy could also pos­si­bly be used in nat­u­ral dis­as­ter res­cues.

Pres­sure sensors lo­cated in the floor of the el­derly per­son’s home will be used to alert the robot that some­thing has hap­pened, and di­rect it to pro­vide as­sis­tance.

Withanage said the al­go­rithm be­ing de­vel­oped would then al­low the com­pan­ion robot track an in­di­vid­ual’s progress as they stand up and, us­ing the robot’s on­board cam­eras, pro­vide cor­rec­tive guid­ance if the per­son tried to un­der­take an un­safe move­ment.

“There could be cam­era and floor sensors in the home to roughly iden­tify that some­thing has hap­pened, but it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean a fall. The robot could then go to the area to see what has hap­pened – whether a fall or some­thing else – and it could dif­fer­en­ti­ate an in­ci­dent from an emer­gency. Cur­rently, the robot seeks out the el­derly per­son and calls a health­care pro­fes­sional, but from that point on­wards, the re­mote carer takes over con­trol.

By the end of my re­search, it will be com­pletely au­ton­o­mous – the robot will able to di­rect the pa­tient on its own.”

The re­search is be­lieved to be the first of its kind, with no ro­bots pre­vi­ously us­ing au­dio­vi­sual prompts to aid the el­derly au­tonomously.

Withanage said the robot would also be equipped to mon­i­tor heart rates re­motely and con­verse with the fall vic­tim us­ing voice recog­ni­tion soft­ware.

“Most aids that cur­rently ex­ist in­volve some hu­man in­ter­ven­tion – this is go­ing to be with­out hu­man in­ter­ven­tion. The robot can de­tect sub-ac­tiv­i­ties, such as rolling to the side or crawl­ing. If the per­son is mov­ing, the robot can take steps back­wards or for­wards. It can also push supporting struc­tures to­wards the per­son to help them get up.”

Withanage said the tech­nol­ogy could also be adapted to pro­vide real-time guid­ance for ath­letes or as­sist vic­tims and emer­gency work­ers in dis­as­ter en­vi­ron­ments.

“We could see this used in nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, for ex­am­ple af­ter a tsunami sce­nario. The robot could go into the en­vi­ron­ment and see whether the per­son needs any as­sis­tance and pro­vide it as re­quired,” he said.

Al­though the robot tech­nol­ogy is still in early stages of de­vel­op­ment, the re­search team is con­fi­dent a full pro­to­type will be com­pleted by Fe­bru­ary 2018.

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