Older people will now have company in the form of robots. The robot will be programmed to behave as a perfect companion for older people. The development is being carried out by researchers from the University of Hertfordshire. The project has been named ACCOMPANY and is meant to stand for Acceptable Robotics Companions for Aging Years. The research is aimed at creating a robot that will help older people in performing daily routine tasks in the house and outside.
The project is being coordinated by a senior lecturer in adaptive systems and is also an expert in the field of Rehabilitation robotics and assistive technologies, Dr. Farshid Amirabdollahian. Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn is the principal investigator of the study and has been deeply involved in studies regarding interaction between humans and robots. Professor Dautenhahn has also taken studies on the implications of having robot companions. Robot House in the University will be the venue of the research.
The time period for the study has been set for three years and a number of research activities have been planned in this period. Other than developing a mechanical structure, researchers will aim at conducting feasible studies with old people. Survey will be carried out in order to realize the requirements of the older people so that the robot can be designed suitable. Studies will also be carried out to determine the level of acceptance among older people for a robotic companion. Care-o-bot 3 will be used by the scientists in the studies.
Lead researcher of the study Dr. Amirabdollah said that the main aim of the study is to make the relation between older people and robots as close to reality as possible. Rather than feeing overwhelmed or wary of a mechanical companion, older people should be able to relate and form an almost humanly relationship with the robot. Robots will meant to enhance the quality of life and help older people lead much better lives, while simultaneously being independent.
Robots have been in use for domestic help ever since 2008. Project ACCOMPANY will consider these studies when creating their own model. While the other robots developed by different companies are aimed at general house keeping works, the robots in the present study will have a specific purpose – helping the elderly.
In addition to the above mentioned research bodies, University of Sienna, University of Amsterdam, University of Birmingham, Hogeschool Zuyd, MADoPA and Fraunhofer will be part of the research.