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According to information summarized from the U.S. Bureau of Census, the population of people 85 and older is expected to increase 39.3 percent by the year 2000 and 33.2 percent between the years 2000 and 2010.


Nursebot masthead

Flo reminds her when it's time to take her medicine and even opens the bottle lids when her arthritis flares up. Flo regularly checks her vital signs and communicates this information to her doctor's office. Flo isn't a nurse--she's a Nursebot, a personal robotic assistant designed to help the elderly.

This futuristic scenario could happen sooner than you think. A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh are developing Flo, a robot that can assist the physically dependent with daily living.

NursebotThis Nursebot will help researchers explore the ways autonomous mobile robots can help the elderly live independently in their own homes. This research represents a different approach to aiding the aging. According to Sebastian Thrun, assistant professor in the Center for Automated Learning and Discovery, "Flo is unique in the range of tools being developed to assist the elderly. It's a personal assistant, as opposed to an intelligent wheelchair or smart walking aid."

The interdisciplinary research project is testing several way to improve the quality of life and medical care to the elderly through human-robot interaction, such as:

  • Intelligent reminding--reminding elderly patients when it's time to visit the restroom, take medication or eat a meal. By following a patient around, the Nursebot can prevent the patient from getting lost.

  • Mobile manipulation--manipulating objects like jar lids or refrigerator doors for patients suffering from arthritis.

  • Tele-presence--using the Internet and a two-way screen (in the robot's midsection) to connect patients and their health care professionals.

  • Data collection and surveillance--collecting and closely monitoring patient information such as blood pressure and heart rate. In the event of a medical emergency, the Nursebot would immediately summon help from medical professionals.

  • Social interaction--interacting with the patients as a human would to keep them from feeling deprived of social contact.

Because the need for cost-effective solutions in the elderly care sector is larger than ever before, mobile robots like Flo could play a significant role in changing the way healthcare is delivered to one of the fastest growing populations of people.

The Carnegie Mellon Team

Flo's Carnegie Mellon Team

Related Links:
Flo the Nursebot
University of Pittsburgh
Sebastian Thrun
Center for Automated Learning and Discovery
Robot Learning Laboratory
Robotics Institute
National Science Foundation Workshop
   on Healthcare Robotics

Assisted Living Federation of America
More Carnegie Mellon Robots