Of the various potential uses for robots, there’s one that many people often forget about – in-home helpers for the elderly. A number of such robots are currently in the works, including the Twendy-One and GiraffPlus. Now, a consortium of European research institutes and companies has created another such electronic assistant, as one component of the larger Mobiserv Project.
The wheeled autonomous robot, which was developed over the past three years, is equipped with stereoscopic cameras, two-way audio communications (it can speak, and understand human speech), various sensors, and a touchscreen interface. It doesn't have arms or any other manipulators, so it can’t pick up or manipulate objects.
Instead, one of its main duties is to track the in-home activities of its human companion. In particular, it notes how often they engage in things like physical activity, taking medication, contacting other people, and eating meals. If the person hasn’t gotten up from their chair in some time, for instance, the Mobiserv robot will move over to them and verbally suggest that they get some exercise. If they’re interested, they can then choose from a variety of exercises demonstrated on the robot’s touchscreen.
Alternatively, it can also suggest people for them to phone (which they can do using the screen) or meals that they could prepare, plus it allows them to see who’s at their front door via a remote video camera. Users can also call the robot over to play games, interacting with it either by voice or by touchscreen.
Additionally, in the same way that people wouldn’t want just any other person living with them, the robot’s tone of voice, behavior, and other characteristics can be customized to suit the user. So far, seniors who have tested the robot are reportedly “extremely positive” about the experience.
The current prototype cost about €10,000 (US$13,338) to build, although it’s hoped that a commercial version of the robot may be available within a couple of years for around half that amount.
You can see the robot in action in the video below.