Washington scientists test elderly care robot

Washington State University (WSU) scientists are testing a mobile robot designed to help care for senior citizens with health limitations who live on their own.

The Robotic Activity Support System (RAS) works with WSU's smart home and uses sensors embedded within the home to determine where its users are, what they’re doing and when they’ll need assistance with daily activities, according to the university. The robot can also navigate through rooms and around obstacles, do simple tasks and lead users to objects, like medications and food.

“Upwards of 90 percent of older adults prefer to age in place as opposed to moving into a nursing home,” Diane Cook, regents professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of the WSU Center for Advanced Studies in Adaptive Systems (CASAS), said in a statement. “We want to make it so that instead of bringing in a caregiver or sending these people to a nursing home, we can use technology to help them live independently on their own.”

Recently, there’s a been a focus on utilizing AI-powered robots and virtual assistants for elderly healthcare within the medical industry, with the technology expected to a make a huge impact in the field in the coming years.

According to WSU, RAS is the first robot CASAS researchers have tried to incorporate into their smart home environment. Researchers said they hope to further test the robot’s ability with a group of older adults.

“While we are still in an early stage of development, our initial results with RAS have been promising,” Bryan Minor, a postdoctoral researcher at the WSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said in a statement. “The next step in the research will be to test RAS’ performance with a group of older adults to get a better idea of what prompts, video reminders and other preferences they have regarding the robot.”