– Robots Are Caring for Elderly People in Europe (Vice, May 6, 2014):
Judging by recent surveys, most people seem to think that robots that are actually useful will lead to some sort of apocalyptic machine uprising. But look past the military bots and automated job-stealers, and one of the most obvious applications of a service robot is an entirely unthreatening task humans are increasingly failing to meet demand for: caring.
Six elderly people across Europe currently have a new companion: a GiraffPlus robot, or Mr. Robin, as one 94-year-old taking part in the trial rather adorably calls it in the video below. It’s part of an EU-funded project to use robotics to help elderly people who want to stay at home remain independent past the point they’d usually be unable to live alone due to physical or cognitive difficulties.
Amy Loutfi, director of Computer Engineering at Sweden’s Örebro Univeristy and coordinator of the GiraffPlus project, told me more about their work. The robot is actually just part of the system, which includes a kind of smart home aspect to it, with environmental sensors around the house feeding back information about the inhabitant’s movements, and physiological sensors to track their health.
Motion sensors track if someone is in a certain room, while pressure sensors under beds and sofas can tell if someone is sitting down. There are also sensors that are activated when certain appliances are plugged in, and sensors that monitor when doors and windows are open or closed, not to mention temperature and humidity trackers.