Service and care robots could play a supportive role in the life of many chronic patients and senior citizens who want to live independently for longer. The European Commission funds research, innovation and development activities for service robotics in assisted living environments.

The European Union founds under the Active and Assisted Living (AAL) joint programme research projects in robotics for ageing well.

With a total budget of EUR 235 million, the ALL join programme is a part of the Horizon2020 programme.

Project Highlights

From all the AAL projects we highlight some below:

Growmeup project - a self-training robot

Growmeupeup ran from February 2015 until January 2018. It provided an affordable robot that is able to learn from older people's routines and habits and enhance and adapt its functionality. This way it can compensate for the gradual deterioration of the cognitive ability of the older person, while ensuring a consistent service provision and quality of life throughout the ageing process.

To determine the effectiveness of the Growmeup system, trials were performed in the Netherlands and Portugal on more than 60 end-users over a period of six months.

A Robot companion for the elderly – the Accompany project

The now completed Accompany project successfully developed a "social robot" that uses a state of the art service platform called Care-o-bot 3 and works within a smart-home environment.

The project team carried out a wide range of studies and trials over three years, which included detecting the activity and status of people in a smart-home environment as well as focusing on robots' ability to remember and recall. Three interaction scenarios were subsequently evaluated by elderly people and their informal or professional carers in France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

The ethics of human-machine interaction was a focal point of the project, resulting in the drafting of an ethical framework for care robotics, as pointed out Prof. Sorell in his blog post on the ethical framework. The framework stresses the autonomy of the user and the freedom to make their own choices. The underlying principle is that ageing users should not be treated differently than other adults due to their age.

The Accompany has demonstrated that a social robot can potentially help to prevent social isolation and loneliness, offering stimulating activities whilst respecting autonomy and independence.

Robot-era project: a care robot from the home to the street

Robot-era was a project that developed and demonstrated the general feasibility, effectiveness and acceptability of a set of advanced robotic services, integrated in an intelligent environment. The robots actively worked in real life conditions and cooperated with real people and other robots, to support independent living and improve the quality of life and the efficiency of care for elderly people.

The trials in real life environments involved 160 elderly persons in what was the world's largest test of service robots.

Services on trial are:

  • taking the elderly person out grocery shopping or to the pharmacy
  • reminding them to take their medicine
  • taking out the trash bin
  • monitoring the safety of elderly people by alerting them if the front door is open or if there is a gas leak.

DOMEO project: the Kompaï robot

Robot KompaiThe robot Kompaï helps older, dependent or disabled people to live independently at home for as long as possible. Kompaï was designed to accommodate in particular people suffering from cognitive decline. People can be safe at home and stay in permanent connection to the outside world due to internet access and dedicated applications in Kompaï.

The European Unions AAL Joint Programme funded the DOMEO project to design the first generation of Kompaï robots and have them tested by potential users. The robot received the Worldwide Innovation Challenge award launched by the French Government.

Pre-commercial Procurement for Robotics: the Silver project

Silver is not a traditional research project, but a pre-commercial procurement (PCP) scheme to stimulate radical innovation and “out-of-the-box” thinking with the aim of improving the quality of life of older people. Robotics can help tackle the ageing challenge, but ground-breaking initiatives that would prove that potential are still needed.

An 'open' challenge was launched during the spring of 2013 in order to encourage more radical approaches. There was no detailed specification of a product or service being sought, but rather a description of the challenge that needed to be addressed and the desired outcome.

The Silver call for tender resulted in a total of 32 applications, out of which seven were invited to design solutions. The three most promising contractors were awarded with contracts to develop prototypes. One of the three, the Lecorob (now called LEA) proposal – an autonomous mobility device enhanced with sensing capabilities and an interactive user interface – passed the procurers’ selection criteria and was tested in the partnering countries in 2016.

The first objective of the Silver project was to establish and execute an agreed PCP process to run a cross-border Pre-Commercial Procurement call for tender. In the future, this generic process should also form a basis for national PCP calls. The second objective was to use the PCP process developed in the project to identify new technologies and services to support the independent living of the elderly.

The ultimate goal of Silver is that by 2020 new solutions implemented in elderly care are expected to make it possible to care for 10 % more care recipients with the same number of care givers.

More information

The article ICT research and innovation for Ageing Well explains in details this European policy.