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The Savvy Robot That’s Half-Carer, Half-Friend

Robots are taking over the planet!

But don’t worry… unlike premonitions of a robot apocalypse from the likes of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, many of them are used for good, not evil.

None more so than in the healthcare sector, where innovation is lighting up the robotics industry. In the past, we’ve reported on…

  • iRobot (IRBT) and InTouch Health’s RP-VITA – the first autonomous robot to gain FDA approval for hospitals. Sensors help it navigate its environment, and it uses an iPad to connect doctors and patients, so consultations can be done remotely. It also holds electronic medical records to create a seamless telemedicine process.
  • Roboy, a cutting-edge humanoid robot, which could ultimately be used as an in-home helper to assist the elderly.
  • How i-Transport helps give wheelchair-bound people independence by lifting them up to a standing position.
  • Robotic exoskeletons called ReWalk and MindWalker that are helping paralyzed people walk again.

Here’s the latest innovation…

“The Robot Becomes Alive”

As the elderly population grows, so does the challenge of caring for them.

That’s why the European Union is funding a project called GiraffPlus, which uses a new robot to monitor the elderly in their homes.

Like the RP-VITA I mentioned above, the GiraffPlus model uses sensors to move around a house or apartment, where it tracks and analyzes the user’s movement and vital signs, like heart rate and blood pressure. That data is fed wirelessly to doctors.

As a result, it’s also able to detect emergencies and send for help.

The device uses similar technology to Skype, where users can consult with their doctors remotely. Users can also summon the robot to have face-to-face conversations with family and friends.

The GiraffPlus system is being trialed with 14 robots in three Europeans countries. One of them is Italy, where 94-year-old Lea Mina Ralli has it in her Rome apartment.

She says it’s a reassuring presence in her life: “He keeps me company and helps me feel calm because if there is a need, they can check on me or request a response from me. I have my remote control, and I can take a call from them. The robot becomes alive, and the person appears on the turning screen.”

Take a look…


Coming to Homes in 2015

The GiraffPlus team say their creation is the latest example of how technology is helping to cut medical costs, while still closely monitoring elderly citizens’ health and allowing them to maintain their independence.

Gabriella Cortellessa is Technical Manager of GiraffPlus at the Italian National Research Council’s Institute for Cognitive Science and Technology. She describes the goal behind GiraffPlus: “The idea of the project is to collect sensitive data such as a person’s blood pressure or the level of sugar in the blood, but also what happens inside the house through the sensors. That data allows us to study the movements of the person to see what the elderly person does at home. These details are then interpreted through artificial intelligence, which gives us an indication of the life and the routines of the elderly person.”

From here, the developers hope to bring GiraffPlus to market by late 2015.

Martin Denholm

Martin Denholm

, Managing Editor

View More By Martin Denholm