uBOT-5: Robot to Assist with Elder Care


With a big portion of the human population going into retirement anytime soon, a shortage of people who care for the elderly would be in great demand in the future. With already a shortage of such personnel being felt in many parts of the country, some researchers have started to look for other ways to fill in the void. Some of them has eyed robots designed to help cared for the elderly. This possibility won’t be a long time coming as would have been previously thought.

According to an article on the ScienceDaily website, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst were able to develop a robot that can dial 911 in case of emergencies, help the elderly with tasks such as shopping for groceries, allows a person to talk to loved ones and medical personnel and many more.

The robot, dubbed as uBOT-5, was developed as a robotic assistant to allow the elderly to live independently as well as provide relief to the various tasks of caregivers as well as those in community services. With an expected elderly population of American retirees numbering about 77 million in the next 30 years, this development may find a niche that would be quite useful in terms of elderly care.

The design of uBOT-5 was inspired by the human anatomy. It has an array of sensors that acts as its ears and eyes to allow it to recognize human activities such as walking and sitting. The robot can also recognize an abnormal event visually, such as an elderly falling down, and notify a caregiver.

The robot also has an integrated interface where the patient or elderly may communicate with a remote service provider. Through the interface, a patient may be asked to speak or perform some actions. If the person remains unresponsive, the robot can call 911, notify family members and medical personnel as well as apply a digital stethoscope to the patient and convey the information to an emergency medical technician.

Not only that, the uBOT-5 can also recognize actions that are not made by humans. Sensors on the robot are also trained to recognize blockage on a passageway such as when a deliveryman leaves a package at the door or hallway. When the robot senses the blockage, it is also trained to move the obstruction out of the way. Computer scientist Rod Grupen, director of UMass Amherst’s Laboratory for Perceptual Robotics, developed project ASSIST in collaboration with computer scientists Allen Hanson and Edward Riseman.

The project also involved researchers from the Smith College School for Social Work, the Veteran’s Administration, Connecticut Health Care System, West Haven campus and the elder care community centers located in western Massachusetts.

Source: "New Robots Can Provide Elder Care For Aging Baby Boomers." ScienceDaily 21 April 2008. 25 April 2008.

Image Source: umass.edu

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