We are now coming to the end of this 3 year project and the time of testing! A few of our tenants have volunteered to have the robot and smart home technology installed in their homes. After some frustrating delays due to technical difficulties they finally got to have a go interacting with the robot. The robot can prompt and assist tenants to play cognitive games, access newspaper articles and even be directed through a physical exercise routine. (see photos)
There is much still to improve with the system but the potential impact of this kind of technology in improving the lives and promoting independence for older people is very exciting. The aim of the project was to enable older people with mild cognitive impairment to be more active, have more interaction and stimulation and for the ENRICHME system to assist in tasks such as finding objects, reminders of appointments and monitoring the environment.
When we see robots in the media, and there has been a lot of focus in the last year, there is a reticence and a fear that they are somehow going to replace human contact or the need for human intervention. In reality the areas where robotic technology can perform better than humans is in repetitive tasks such as in agriculture and manufacturing. The Tiago robot seen here can navigate on level ground only so its not going to take over the world in a hurry! In social care there is not a robot exists that could replace humans in providing personal care and health interventions, nor will there be. Despite the growing pressure on the social and healthcare systems across the world, robots and technology will never be able to replicate the human interventions that health professionals and care givers provide. The value of robotics and technology to health and social care is in providing valuable data (about the individual and the environment), providing stimulation/activity and prompts to maximise quality of life and independence for every individual. This research project will be followed by much more work and development before there is a system that is ready to be widely distributed and utilised. The ENRICHME project has shown that the possibilities for the use of robotics and technology in improving the lives of older people are as wide as your imagination will allow.
For more information on the project and the consortium of 10 partners from 6 different European countries visit the project website at www.enrichme.eu