Carnegie Mellon, Pitt Demonstrate Technology to Help Elderly at Exhibition in Washington

Byron SpiceMonday, December 12, 2005

PITTSBURGH-In conjunction with the once-in-a-decade White House Conference on Aging, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh researchers will demonstrate new technologies to enhance the lives of the elderly at the Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) exhibition, Dec. 12-14, in Washington, D.C.

The researchers will showcase their technologies at a booth in the Imagine Technology Pavilion at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 2660 Woodley Park Road N.W. They are among representatives from 32 companies and research universities participating in the exhibition.

The Carnegie Mellon/Pitt display will include:

• Pearl the Nursebot, a robot designed to interact with and guide people in assisted living facilities. Pearl is currently undergoing field trials in the Pittsburgh area. • Guido, an intelligent walker that provides navigation assistance and collision avoidance for people who need a mobility aid and who also have impaired vision.

• CareMedia, a video-monitoring technology that can help to pinpoint physiological and behavioral changes among patients in skilled nursing facilities who suffer from Alzheimer's disease or dementia. The system captures video material from more than three-dozen cameras running continuously in the public spaces of these facilities and can automatically detect and catalog various movements, activities and behaviors.

• SMARTWheel, a wheelchair wheel that collects data as it moves, including the average force it takes to propel itself, frequency and length of each push on the handwheels, and the ease of propelling a given wheelchair. The SMARTWheel is commercially available from Three Rivers Out-Front.

• GameCycle, an exercise device that promotes physical fitness for people with lower-extremity impairment. The device consists of a videogame console interfaced with an arm cycle, which is used to control a racing game. The GameCycle is also commercially available from Three Rivers Out-Front.

Two groups partnering with the Carnegie Mellon/Pitt team will also participate. Blueroof Technologies, a non-profit company building inexpensive, modular, smart homes will show technologies for remote control of appliances and monitoring of a house's occupants. The team is exploring Blueroof's homes as a potential venue for CareMedia technology. Freedom Lift, a manufacturer of products that get power wheelchairs and their users in and out of passenger vehicles, will demonstrate its Automated Transport and Retrieval System (ATRS). ATRS adds automation to the power wheelchair, giving the user complete mobility independence. ATRS was developed in a collaboration that included the Carnegie Mellon and Pitt spin-off company AT Sciences.

"The technologies we are bringing to the conference will allow the elderly to continue their independence for a longer period of time," said Rory Cooper, distinguished professor and director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh. "They have the potential to increase their quality of life, and their participation in family and social activities. The devices we will be showcasing reflect a wide range of the aging population's interests: for instance, maintaining and expanding mobility through active lifestyles. This generation is more accustomed to adopting technology than previous generations."

"The Pittsburgh area is a wonderful testbed for the types of technology Carnegie Mellon and Pitt are developing," said Jim Osborn, executive director of the Medical Robotics Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon. "The universities are complementary by virtue of their technologies. They share the agenda to improve the quality of life of seniors and others with disabilities and are in the middle of the county with the second oldest population in the United States.

"Our approach is to work from the insights of geriatricians, gerontologists and other healthcare professionals, as well as end users and aging services providers to not only identify good technologies but to see how they fit into real situations," Osborn said. "Our work unites people who focus on geriatric issues with those who focus on rehabilitation. Our focus on enhancing the quality of life encompasses both."

About CAST

Established in 2003, CAST ( has become a national coalition of more than 400 technology companies, aging services organizations, research universities and government representatives working together under the auspices of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging ( AAHSA members serve two million people daily through mission-driven, non-profit organizations.

About Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon is a private research university with a distinctive mix of programs in computer science, robotics, engineering, the sciences, business, public policy, fine arts and humanities. More than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students receive an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions to solve real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A small faculty-to-student ratio is pervasive on its 110-acre campus. Carnegie Mellon is also distinctive among leading research universities because of conservatory-like programs in its College of Fine Arts. For more information, visit

About the University of Pittsburgh

A nonsectarian, coeducational, state-related, public research university founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh is a member of the prestigious by-invitation-only Association of American Universities and internationally renowned as a leading center of learning and research in the arts, sciences, humanities, professions and health sciences. Comprising a Pittsburgh campus, which is home to 16 undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, and four Western Pennsylvania regional campuses, Pitt offers nearly 400 distinct degree programs and confers more than 7,500 degrees annually. In fiscal year 2004, Pitt and its institutional affiliates ranked 7th for grant support from the National Institutes of Health. For more information, visit

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Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 |