robot-carehomeOne of the more interesting trends of recent years has been the growing use of technology in healthcare. 

Airdale NHS Trust, for instance, pioneered the use of telemedicine earlier this year in a care home for the elderly that aimed to provide 24/7 care for residents.  The initial results were extremely positive, with A&E admissions down significantly.

The University of Texas at Arlington have produced a prototype smarthome for elderly patients that contains a host of technologies that are designed to reduce many of the risks associated with old age.  The aim is to provide elderly people with a safe and comfortable life within their own homes.

Mobile service robots

To continue this trend, we have recently entered a collaboration with LACE Housing Association to provide care homes with mobile service robots to support residents.  The aim is that they will help residents to stay active and independent for longer.

The robots, which are known as ENRICHME (Enabling Robot and assisted living environment for Independent Care and Health Monitoring of the Elderly), will operate within a smarthome environment.

The homes will monitor residents around the clock, providing regular feedback to carers and health professionals.  The robots will support residents with various activities to hopefully improve their quality of life.

The venture will combine artificial intelligence and robotics expertise from the School of Computer Science, before being deployed both in LACE Housing Association facilities in Britain and homes in Greece and Poland for one year.

Principal InvestigatorDr Nicola Bellottofrom the University of Lincoln said: “The system will build on recent advances in mobile service robotics and ambient assisted living to help people improve health and wellbeing. From a technological point of view there will be an intelligent interactive robot that is integrated with a smarthome, communicating with a network of care givers and relatives. This will be of particular benefit to those people who have mild cognitive impairments, for example older people who are still physically healthy but may have early symptoms of dementia.”

Early warning

It is hoped that the system will provide caregivers the opportunity to spot trends in the cognitive performance of patients and gain early warning of potential emergencies.  For instance, the patients mood could suddenly change and signify a need to step in.

Dr Bellotto added: “If the robot detects that the mood of the person is particularly low, it might suggest some kind of game or interaction with relatives. It could record information on how the mood changes and provide professional staff with feedback over a period of time, which would be very useful when studying the evolution of particular cognitive impairments.”

The robots will also be programmed to identify individuals within the home and therefore provide personalised care levels to each patient, and with MIT recently highlighting how robots can effectively collaborate, the potential in this area is very large indeed.

Hazel Ashmore, Project Lead Officer for LACE Housing, said: “Our focus at LACE Housing is on doing everything possible to enhance and maintain an older person’s independence and wellbeing, whatever their circumstances.  This is an exciting opportunity to explore the potential benefits of assistive technology, particularly the introduction of robots in this case, to complement our usual operations. We look forward to working alongside the University of Lincoln and with colleagues from other European countries so that we can evaluate and learn more about, and so that our residents may benefit from, the use of such technology in the future.”