Technical assistive systems enable people in need of help to be more independent, thus making them less reliant on others and sometimes even allowing them to manage entirely on their own. Under the heading of “Ambient Assisted Living” (AAL), various solutions have been developed in this field to help older people in their homes. One example is “intelligent” domestic systems, which enable residents to access things such as light switches and heating controls from any desired location. Other examples include intelligent sensors for monitoring and recording vital signs, recognizing emergencies, or telepresence systems enabling people to keep in touch with friends and relatives despite being less mobile.
Assistive robots complement existing AAL or smart home solutions in that they not only have sensory and informative functions but are also capable of moving around and/or performing handling tasks.
Expertise and sample projects
In the course of various research projects, potential applications for service robotics to assist elderly people in the home have been identified on the basis of interviews held with elderly citizens and their care givers. They were asked about the difficulties they encountered due to aging and about the sort of technical support they needed. Applications were initially put into practice and tested using the assistive robot Care-O-bot, which is a complex research platform capable of performing a wide range of domestic tasks.
In a next step, applications that had proved to be effective in practice were then transferred to prototypes close to a final product. This enabled the mobile communication platform MoBiNa to be developed for supporting elderly users in emergencies - which was the scope of the projects “SRS” and “Tech4P. The platform analyzes signals from a localized fall recognition system, then approaches the person who has fallen and contacts an emergency call center via a monitor, camera and microphone. In a design study, the concept of a portable robot arm to assist with typical daily tasks was developed, which transfers the functions of automatically detecting, gripping and manipulating objects to a product-related solution.