Acceptable robotiCs COMPanions for AgeiNg Years
The project consists of multiple technological development lines joined with frequent formative evaluations and multiple summative evaluation phases planned to result in project milestones are presented below:
The proposed ACCOMPANY system will consist of a robotic companion as part of an intelligent environment, providing services to elderly users in a motivating and socially acceptable manner to facilitate independent living at home. The ACCOMPANY system will provide physical, cognitive and social assistance in everyday home tasks, and will contribute to the re-ablement of the user, i.e. assist the user in being able to carry out certain tasks on his/her own. Services to the user will be delivered through socially interactive, acceptable and empathic interaction, building on computational models of robot social cognition and interaction. The envisaged relationship of the user with the robot is that of a co-learner – robot and user providing mutual assistance for the user not to be dominated by the technology, but to be empowered, physically, cognitively and socially.
The project combines a multidisciplinary consortium to tackle the technological as well as human-centred and ethical challenges of the project. A state of the art service robot platform, Care-O-bot® 3 will be used in a wide range of user studies with elderly people to assess user requirements and user acceptance of the robot as part of an intelligent home environment that is able to recognise salient activities at home. The aesthetic and product-like design of the robot are a particularly suitable starting point for its use as a home companion for elderly users. Results from user studies will then be fed back to adapt the technology so that it better suits user demands and preferences. Throughout the project such formative feedback results in different iterations of the ACCOMPANY prototypes.
The proposal addresses target outcome a) service and social robotics systems for “Ageing well” under objective ICT-2011.5.4 ICT for Ageing and Wellbeing. A major challenge concerning the development of service robots for the elderly is to enhance existing state of the art technologies and interfaces in order to facilitate independent living at home. Such multifaceted and multidisciplinary research activities include issues such as acceptability, safety, reliability, efficiency, robustness, and ethical considerations. A major challenge is to integrate and interface these different aspects of research in a usable and acceptable manner for independent living for the target population.
A dedicated showcase at UH (utilizing the “Robot House” as an existing infrastructure) will focus on technological integration efforts as well as user evaluation. User acceptance evaluation will take place at the UH Robot House as well as in two other test sites in HZ and MADOPA. The use of three test sites in three different European countries (UK, the Netherlands, France) will ensure an extensive testing and evaluation process while addressing cultural differences in both elderly care and the attitudes of users towards the use of service robots in eldercare. The interdisciplinary consortium is complemented by robotics and human-robot interaction experts at Fraunhofer, UVA and UNSI.
The ACCOMPANY system will represent a novel technological solution to facilitate independent living at home for elderly users. In addition, ACCOMPANY will specify ethical guidelines for service robots for the elderly (partner UB). The novel insights gained in the project will be made publicly available, and an open source policy will be pursued for software development in the project, thereby strengthening the European service robotics research and industry community. Finally, the target project outcomes will help to realize our underlying vision, namely that service robots in the context of an intelligent home environment, if firmly integrated in a user-centred and application-oriented agenda, has its place in the care of elderly and other user groups by being able to increase their independence, sense of being in control of their daily lives, and quality of life. The project’s work plan outlines how we intend to reach this ambitious goal.