U.S. scientists use robot to work as life assistant for disabled elderly people

Scientists from Washington State University (WSU) on the U.S. western coast are using a robot system to help elderly people suffering from dementia or other impairments complete most-needed tasks in their daily life.

The WSU scientists invented the Robot Activity Support System, or RAS, to create a smart home environment for disabled senior citizens to live independently, as the robot is trained to complete daily activities such as walking the dog, taking medication with food and water, and watering household plants.

With the help of sensors installed in the WSU smart home, RAS navigates through rooms and around obstacles to find people on its own, offers on-screen instructions to teach people to do simple tasks, or even helps its owners get their medication or grab a snack in the kitchen.

RAS is the first robot that the researchers at the WSU Center for Advanced Studies in Adaptive Systems (CASAS) are trying to incorporate into their smart home environment, where the robotic system can determine where the homeowners are, and what they want or are doing.

The WSU scientists published their study in a recent edition of the journal Cognitive Systems Research.

“RAS combines the convenience of a mobile robot with the activity detection technology of a WSU smart home to provide assistance in the moment, as the need for help is detected,” said Bryan Minor, a researcher at the WSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Statistics show that about 50 percent of adults aged 85 or over need assistance in their daily care, and it could cost an estimated 2 trillion U.S. dollars annually in the United States.

“Upwards of 90 percent of older adults prefer to age in place as opposed to moving into a nursing home,” said Diane Cook, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and CASAS director at WSU.

She said the WSU scientists hope their smart home technologies like RAS would make it easier for elderly people with memory problems or other disabilities to live a normal life on their own.

Source: Xinhua