The Jetsons predicted flying cars for the 21st century, and while we’re not quite there yet, their predictions about robots in the home is on the verge of coming true.
Last month, nearly a hundred people convened in Singapore for the MIT & Segway hackathon to figure out just how robots can be used to help our elderly — who, arguably, can use a hand much more than the rest of the general population.
But, the hackathon wasn’t located on the Southeast Asian island nation for the weather. Singapore is actually a prime example of a country with an aging population and a major lack of manpower to assist them. The task to figure out how Segway’s robot Loomo could assist their elderly and caregivers will eventually be rolled out on a global scale.
The teams asked to come up with creative solutions consisted of three developers, a healthcare professional, and a business manager — according to Engadget. The teams tackled problems like health monitoring, fall risks, and recognizing dementia. But the team that came out on top, Team Bolter, used autonomous mobility and facial recognition to transport wheelchair bound patients around facilities — freeing up much-needed manpower.
The system utilises facial recognition algorithms to identify patients, then connects with their wheelchair using a custom-designed electromagnetic coupling, allowing the robot, Loomo to move wheelchair-bound patients to and from activities such as meals and medical appointments. This also frees up manpower, enabling caregivers to focus on more critical care and medical tasks and provide higher quality care.
Imagine all the assistance that will provide in facilities that have a serious lack of hands. And, in addition to the points above, this kind of application could mean better and more social interaction between guests — which we know is important brain stimulation for the elderly.
The second and third place teams developed helpful solutions for detecting cardiac problems as well as dementia, and OpenGov Asia reports all three teams will be given access to prototype facilities and funding to further develop their ideas and ultimately develop their own companies.
Elli Q — The Robot that Engages
While these projects are still in the prototype phase, companies like Intuition Robotics, the creators of Elli Q, are set to begin testing with seniors in the Bay Area after raising $6 million.
Elli Q is a robot attached to a tablet, and it was built to assist and engage the elderly. TechCrunch explains the robot helps families stay in touch with elderly family members by connecting them through the camera in the tablet. But, Ellie Q also assists the elderly by engaging them with activities, or reminding them to take their medications.
“We all have parents that are aging,” Intuition Robotics CEO Dor Skuler told TechCrunch. “30 percent of the population is made up of older adults. Many of them deal with loneliness and social isolation, which has a direct effect on health degradation.”
The team at Intuition Robotics explains that Ellie Q is different than the talking robots we have in our homes now, like Siri and Alexa, because she uses cognitive computing to be interactive and highly responsive.
Intuition Robotics reports that 90% of older adults prefer to age in their own home. And if their projections are right, there’s a huge application for robots within the homes of the elderly to keep them happy, independent and healthy.
IBM’s Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot
Business Insider reports that even IBM sees major applications of their own work for this growing field. IBM is in the process of testing and prototyping a Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot that can do everything from sensing that the stove has been left on after cooking to detecting when someone has fallen over.
While it looks like this technology is still a few years out, implementation of this technology can eventually be wide reaching. Robots for eldercare could span from individuals’ homes to elderly communities, hospitals and aging facilities alike.
Would you be open to having a robot assistant in your home, or the home of your aging family member? We’d love to know your thoughts — so let us know in the comments below.