Helpful robot keeps an eye on the elderly

Helpful robot keeps an eye on the elderly
Henry the robot and friend. Photo: TU Wien
Vienna's Technical University has developed a mobile robot with the ability to detect significant changes in its surroundings, and report them. It's trialling the technology in a hospital for the elderly.

Vienna's University of Technology (TU Wien), together with the House of Mercy hospital, has introduced the latest technical development in the field of robotics for elderly care.

The robot, dubbed Henry, has a built-in capability to independently learn about its environment, and if something unusual is found, to summon human help.  

Dr. Michael Zillich from the Institute of Automation and Control Engineering at the TU explained how they are partnering with the House of Mercy hospital to test out the suitability of the robotic system in a nursing home environment.

The mobile robot is designed to navigate through the hospital, scanning with its cameras, and to learn to categorize and identify objects. It then compares what it sees with what it has already learned, and looks for changes.

For example, it has the ability to spot something as extreme as a person lying unconscious on the floor, or something as apparently innocuous as a door remaining open when it's normally closed.

"The collaboration aims to produce practical robots in the next few years," Dr Zillich said.

The cooperation of TU Vienna and the House of Mercy is part of the EU project STRANDS – Spatio-Temporal Representations and Activities for Cognitive Control in Long-Term Scenarios, under the direction of Dr. Nick Hawes at the University of Birmingham. 

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