New elder care robot created could help people with dementia live independently

Last year (2018) we blogged about Pepper the robot, created by third year robotics and science students at Middlesex University, and how she spoke in Parliament about how she and other robots can care for the nation’s elderly populations in care homes and at home.

Now, scientists at Washington State University (WSU) have created a robot who could help people with dementia and other limitations, live independently in their own homes.

The Robot Activity Support System (RAS) uses sensors embedded in a specially created WSU smart home to determine where its residents are, what they are doing and when they need assistance with daily activities.

It is able to navigate through rooms and around obstacles on its own and provides simple video instructions for the owner to do simple tasks and it can even lead its owner to objects around the home, such as their medication.

As part of a study, 26 students were recruited to complete three activities in the smart home with RAS as their assistant.

These activities were getting ready to walk the dog, taking medication with food and water and watering household plants.

When the sensors in the smart home detected that a student had failed to initiate or was struggling with a task, RAS received a signal to help. Then, using its mapping and navigation camera, sensors and software, it found the person and was able to offer assistance.

The student could indicate through a tablet on the RAS if they wanted to see an instructional video of the activity they were supposed to be performing. They could also ask the RAS to lead them to objects such as the dog’s lead if they were meant to be taking it for a walk.

The RAS is still in the early stages of developments and as the technology and robot itself has been created in America, it would take several years to filter into the UK, but it’s currently a very exciting time for technology in helping dementia.

We’re big advocates for promoting independence in the elderly and enabling them to remain in their own homes, so see many positives in these developments, however we would not want this type of technology to replace carers and family care completely as elderly people living alone need to see and speak to real people and benefit from social interaction, which is not something currently that can be done via robots.

*Information and image courtesy of WSU