Could this new robot help dementia patients live independently

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A robot built by scientists in the US could help elderly people and those with dementia live independently at home, its creators claim.

Scientists at Washington State University (WSU) say its Robot Activity Support System (RAS) uses sensors embedded around the home to determine where a resident is, what they’re doing and when they need help with daily tasks.

When needed, a helper robot can then be deployed to find people on their own and provide video instructions on how to carry out simple tasks or lead owners to important objects such as medication or food.

Diane Cook, regents professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of the WSU Centre for Advanced Studies in Adaptive Systems where the robot was developed, said the system could help more elderly people stay in their own homes.

“Upwards of 90% of older adults prefer to age in place as opposed to moving into a nursing home,” she said.

“We want to make it so that instead of bringing in a caregiver or sending these people to a nursing home, we can use technology to help them live independently on their own.”

The robot and sensor system has so far been tested by 26 students, who were asked to carry out three tasks and then rate the robot’s performance.

The researchers said most rated the system favourably.

Bryan Minor, a postdoctoral researcher in the WSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said the creators now wanted to help the system with elderly users.

“While we are still in an early stage of development, our initial results with RAS have been promising,” he said.

“The next step in the research will be to test RAS’ performance with a group of older adults to get a better idea of what prompts, video reminders and other preferences they have regarding the robot.”

Chris Price