Robot carers to help older people live independently at home
Release Date 15 December 2011
Ground-breaking robotics technology from research led by the University of Reading to support older people living at home has received special recognition from the President of the EU, Jose-Manuel Barroso.
The CompanionAble Project, led by Professor Atta Badii, of the School of Systems Engineering, was selected as one of only two initiatives from 50 star projects to be shown to the EU President and the EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Marie Geoghegan-Quinn, at the European Innovation Convention in Brussels.
One of the stars of the project, Hector the Companion Robot, welcomed the EU delegation to the stand where Professor Badii demonstrated some of Hector's capabilities as an assistive companion robot. Hector is able to care for frail older people and those suffering for example from early Alzheimer's disease so they can remain in their own homes. The robot can be used standalone in any home or as care support within a ‘smart' home integrated with a remote control centre to provide assistance in emergencies.
The range of care support facilities includes monitoring vital physiological signs and moods, diary management, aide memoire services, for example reminders for taking medicines on time, and, setting up video-conferencing sessions. In emergencies, such as a fall, Hector can help the remote control centre assess how serious the fall is and what kind of emergency help may be needed.
Professor Badii said: "There are widely acknowledged demographic, economic and social imperatives for helping the elderly live at home (semi)-independently for as long as possible. Without cognitive stimulation, elderly dementia and depression sufferers can deteriorate rapidly and their carers will face a more demanding task; both groups are increasingly at the risk of social exclusion."
President Barroso asked about the extent of industrial participation for exploitation; Professor Badii explained that several industrial partners were involved within the CompanionAble project and through Innovation Partnerships, Hector's selected capabilities could be adopted as ready-to-integrate ‘Plug-and-Perform' Companion Robot solutions offered to suit various home settings to support assisted independent living.
The CompanionAble project, co-funded by the European Framework 7 Research Programme, with a total budget of around 12 M€ is a four-year integrated research project led by Professor Badii as the Technical and Scientific Co-ordinator of the project working with 17 other partners who have contributed to the project from six countries across the European Community. Professor Badii is the Director of the Intelligent Systems Research (ISR) Laboratory (ISR www.isr.reading .ac.uk). ISR is a multi-disciplinary research unit within the School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading.
More information on the CompanionAble project at www.companionable.net
For more information please contact Rona Cheeseman, Research Communications Manager, on 0118 378 7388 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
The Intelligent Systems Research Laboratory has a track record of research and innovation with leading contributions in many successful collaborative national and international projects, with funding from various public and private bodies such as EPSRC, MoD Grand Challenge, TSB, the European Commission as well as industry-sponsored research and technology development worldwide.
The School of Systems Engineering at the University of Reading brings together a mix of expertise in information technology, computer science, cybernetics and electronic engineering. Its research groups maintain worldwide reputations for theoretical and applied research in a wide range of computing and engineering specialities and seek collaborations that allow it to apply their understanding to aspects of security, health technology, digital society, and energy and environment.