Project Scope

We have succeeded in helping people to live longer.
Now we need to help them to live better.

The project PERSONAL ROBOTIC ASSISTANTS FOR THE ELDERLY is an inter-disciplinary multi-university research initiative focused on robotic technology for the elderly that brings together researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

The goal of our project is to develop mobile, personal service robots that assist elderly people suffering from chronic disorders in their everyday life. We are currently developing anautonomous mobile robot that "lives" in a private home of a chronically ill elderly person. The robot provides a research platform to test out a range of ideas for assisting elderly people, such as:

  • Intelligent Reminding: Many elderly patients have to give up independent living because they forget. They forget to visit the restroom, to take medicine, to drink, or to see the doctor. Our project explores the effectiveness of a robotic reminder, which follows people around (hence cannot get lost).

  • Tele-presence: Professional care-givers can use the robot to establish a "tele-presence" and interact directly with remote patients. This makes many doctor visits superfluous. Our robot is a platform for tele-presence technology that connects patients with care-givers through the Next Generation Internet (NGI).

  • Data collection and surveillance: A range of emergency conditions can be avoided with systematic data collection (e.g., certain types of heart failures). This reason alone can make service robots succeed in the home care business.

  • Mobile manipulation: Arthritis is the main reason for elderly to give up independent living. A semi-intelligent mobile manipulator, that integrates robotic strength with a person's senses and intellects, can overcome barriers in manipulating objects (refrigerator, laundry, microwave) that currently force patients to move into assisted living facilities.

  • Social interaction: A huge number of elderly people are forced to live alone, deprived of social contacts. The project seeks to explore whether robots can take over certain social functions.

Two factor suggest that now is the time to establish mobile robots in the home-care sector: First, for the first time we actually have the technology together to develop robots that exhibit the necessary robustness, reliability, and level of capability. Second, the need for cost-effective solutions in the elderly care sector is larger than ever before.

If successful, this project could change the way we deliver health-care to the ever-growing contingent of elderly people, and it could significantly advance the state-of-the-art in mobile service robotics and human robot interaction.