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New research to facilitate robot-assisted independent living

Robot helping elderly person

OU researchers are part of a project which is investigating the extent to which robots can play a meaningful role in assisting elderly people in their homes.

Professor Enrico Motta and Dr Alessio Antonini from the OU’s Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) are part of a consortium for the GATEKEEPER project, which has just received funding of £730,000 from the EU.

Within this framework, the KMi team will work closely with Samsung UK to develop new solutions based on a combination of both devices and robot technology, which aim to provide intelligent monitoring and assistance in the home, as well as being integrated within a community care framework.

Over the 42 months of the project, the OU researchers will experiment with the notion of a robot as an in-house companion, monitoring the house environment for potential risks, assisting in daily routines and identifying anomalies and potential issues. Building on this basis, the robot will also be integrated within a community platform, which will connect the robot to volunteer groups and local caregivers, ensuring that these are alerted as soon as the robot encounters a situation which may be cause for concern. A pilot will be run in Milton Keynes, co-ordinated by the KMi team in collaboration with local volunteer organisations.

During the project, GATEKEEPER will scale up towards the deployment of solutions that will involve up to 40,000 elderly citizens in eight regional communities, from seven EU member states.

Professor Motta said: “The UK population is aging, and indeed current forecasts indicate that more than a quarter of UK residents will be 65 years or over within the next 50 years. This rapid growth requires new sustainable approaches to healthcare and there is no doubt that technology will play a key role in the care frameworks of the future, even though it can only ever provide one particular element of a comprehensive care programme.

“In this project we aim to explore these scenarios and investigate to what extent robots can play a meaningful role in home care settings, both in terms of technological capabilities and with respect to social acceptance. This is a very exciting programme of work and we are very much looking forward to collaborating with our project partners, and in particular the team at Samsung UK, to develop innovativesolutions in this space.

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