Robot designed to help the elderly

8:55 AM, Mar 18, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - Robots have been designed for the technology savvy for years now, but not just anyone is able to operate them. That is about to change as six universities are working on Hobbit the Robot.

Hobbit is designed to be easy to use so that the elderly can operate it to help them with activities like picking things up from the floor.

"Care organizations say that falling at home is one of the biggest problems when getting older. And for that, we wanted to have a solution that is mobile, not attached to the person because then it is very often not accepted and not worn and that has a step before that. I pick up everything from the floor. I make sure that corridors are wide enough - you know maybe just pushing a chair to the side. Developing technology that is simple enough for technophobes to use was a challenge," Dr. Markus Vincze said.

Vincze is a professor in automation and robotics. He is leading the project at the University of Vienna. The work is being funded by the European Union. The developers are hoping to make the early prototypes affordable for elderly people to use in their own homes.

"One challenge is to make the use so easy that an older person can naturally, intuitively use it. That's one of the technical challenges. The second challenge is to bring all the pieces together into one system. You need the user interface which is now speech-audio, gestures and the touch screen - different modalities. Then you have all the functionalities from the robots - you know, navigate between different rooms, remember places, remember objects, grasp the objects," Vincze said.

The prototype robot will look very different to the finished robot and is expected to cost $6,500.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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