Over the last years, research projects in robotics for ageing well have been funded under the ICT strand of the seventh research framework programme (FP7) and under the AAL joint programme, with a total budget of 50M€. An overview of those projects is available and some of them are highlighted below.
GrowMeUp project - a self-training robot
Several care robotics projects have been launched in the first quarter of 2015, under the Research and Innovation Framework Programme Horizon 2020, with a total funding amount of 85 mln €.
GrowMeUp, which started in February 2015, aims to provide 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 will be performed in the Netherlands and Portugal on more than 60 end users for six months.
A Robot companion for the elderly – the Accompany project
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 subsequently evaluated by elderly people and their informal or professional carers in France, the Netherlands and the UK.
The ethics of human-machine interaction was a focal point of the project, resulting in the drafting of an ethical framework for care robotics (read Prof. Sorell's blog 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 just because they are old.
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 is a project that aims to develop and demonstrate the general feasibility, effectiveness and acceptability of a set of advanced robotic services, integrated in an intelligent environment. The robots involved, will actively work in real life conditions and cooperate 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 are now ongoing, they involve 160 elderly persons in what is now 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
The 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.
Kompaï has been developed by the French company Robosoft. EU's AAL Joint Programme funded the DOMEO project to design the first generation of Kompaï and have it tested by potential users. The robot recently received the Worldwide Innovation Challenge award launched by the French Government.
After extensive trials, Robosoft will be taking the prototype into production in 2017. The goal for 2020 is to produce 10.000 units a year at the selling price of 5.000 €. The company is also planning to enter the Far East market soon, as the demand is particularly strong there. Robosoft estimates the total market for the first generation of cognitive assistive robotics at 2,8 million units for Europe, 1,7 million for the USA and 1 million for Japan.
The present challenge for Robosoft is to better understand the fledgling market and to build a matching business model. A single stand-alone robot is of little use. It has to be incorporated into an eco-system, which can be very complex in the case of frail people. Over the next two years, Robosoft will be engaging in large-scale deployments (such as the EU-funded project Mario) in order to come up with the right offer. This engagement will help assess the expectations of the market better and collect user feedback(end-users and other actors in the eco-system such as doctors, carers, coaches, insurers and public authorities).
Pre-commercial Procurement for Robotics: the Silver project
SILVER is not the 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 stimulate the possibility of more radical approaches being proposed. 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 will be tested in the partnering countries in early 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.
Find more additional information on ICT research and innovation for Ageing Well