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ICT-Supported Bath Robots

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - I-SUPPORT (ICT-Supported Bath Robots)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-02-28

The I-SUPPORT project envisions the development and integration of an innovative, modular, ICTsupported
service robotics system that supports and enhances frail older adults’ motion and force
abilities and assists them in successfully, safely and independently completing the entire sequence of
bathing tasks, such as properly washing their back, their upper parts, their lower limbs, their buttocks and groin,
and to effectively use the towel for drying purposes. Advanced modules of cognition, sensing, context
awareness and actuation will be developed and seamlessly integrated into the service robotics system to
enable the robotic bathing system to adapt to the frail senior citizens population’ abilities and enable frail
senior users to interact with the robotic system in a master-slave mode, thus, performing bathing activities in
an intuitive and safe way. Adaptation and integration of state-of-the-art, cost-effective, soft-robotic arms will
provide the hardware constituents, which, together with advanced human-robot force/compliance control that
will be developed within the proposed project, will form the basis for a safe physical human-robot interaction
that complies with the most up-to-date safety standards. Human behavioural, sociological, safety, ethical
and acceptability aspects, as well as financial factors related to the proposed service robotics system will be
thoroughly investigated and evaluated so that the I-SUPPORT end result is a close-to-market prototype,
applicable to realistic living settings.

The project main specific-implementation objectives are:
• To establish a close collaboration between clinical and technical partners to achieve a user-centred design. Fine tuning of end-user requirements, safety requirements and definition of I-SUPPORT functional specifications. Investigate sociological, gender and ethical considerations
• To create system architecture design. Start developing the subsystems.
• To design system for tracking human posture, movements and actions in the considered application (shower) environment. Start developing the tracking system.
• To research methods and control implementations for direct telemanipulation of the soft arm, for shared control in soft arm tele-manipulation and for interaction control.
• To research methods for robot perception and for recognition of actions, gestures, spoken commands, and the state of a human user.
The main results after the project completion are:

-I-Support could compensate for frail older adults limited motion flexibility, and it was shown that the system assists them to wash difficult-to-reach body parts such as the legs, the feet and their back.
-It was demonstrated that the multiple Human Robot Interaction (HRI) modalities (Audio, Gestural, tablet), in combination with a training phase (about 10 min) allows the Seniors (even those with mild cognitive disability) to interact and operate the service robotic system with a success rate around 60%. Increase of duration of training phase (two 10 min) is expected to increase the HRI success rate to more than 80%.
-The autonomous operation mode, in which the I-SUPPORT soft-arm fully automatically executed the water pouring, was shown to be highly reliable, effective, and accepted by the users, as indicated by the maximum possible values observed for the coverage (100%) and step effectiveness (16.7%) among all primary user and the positive user ratings given for this mode.
-In other control modes providing less assistance in water pouring (shared control, tele-manipulation), the effectiveness of participants in showering the back was substantially lower (coverage = 50-60%, step effectiveness = 11-13%). The user satisfaction with the shared control and tele-manipulation was also significantly lower than that with the autonomous operation mode.
-Functionalities such as fall detection and Context Awareness System strengthens the sense of safety of the Senior and increases the acceptability of the system.
-Remotely supervision of the shower process by the carer (using an Android app on tablet) creates a sense of safety for both caregivers and Seniors.
-System adaptation to user preferences facilitates the acceptance of the system by health care centers since this allows the same system to be automatically customized (user-personalization) and be used by many Seniors having different physique and washing habits.
-The overall usability of the I-SUPPORT system was positively evaluated by 70% of the primary users.
-Level of satisfaction with the system expressed by the primary users with regard to the final prototype (measured by After Scenario Questionnaire, ASQ). When considering the audio-gestural recognition scenario, mean scores expressed for ease of completing the task, time it took, and support information are 2.28 3.04 and 1.08 respectively. When considering the scenario including the use of the tablet device (both shared control and tele-manipulation), mean scores for the above reported categories are 3, 3.48 and 1.04.
-Extent to which the final prototype positively affected primary users in terms of competence, adaptability, and self-esteem (measured by Psychological Impact of Assistive Devices Scale, PIADS). Mean PIADS scores for the three domains are 1.2 1.4 and 0.7 respectively.
-Overall level of satisfaction with the system expressed by the secondary users. The lowest levels of satisfaction are with the system unobtrusiveness and seat comfort (2.9/5 and 3/5 respectively), while the highest are with the CAS features (4.1/5) and the chance of helping primary users with their showering tasks and caregivers reducing their care burden (4.4/5).
Currently there is no commercially available service robot for assisting the senior citizen in the shower or
the bathroom other than the very recent Panasonic hair washer. Furthermore, there are no research results reported in the literature on assisting frail older adults during bathing (be it shower or bath tub). In addition, we have carried out patent search in the USA patent databases and the European patent databases and we found no patents related to service robots for the shower or bath
activities. Several groups have pointed out in the literature the need for service robots in the bathroom, but
the hurdles of safety, acceptability, cost-effectiveness and affordability which are directly linked to rigid-body
manipulator technology, sensor technology and non-intuitive control schemes have prevented so far the
implementation of such service robots. The I-SUPPORT proposed project, for the first time, puts together
state-of-the-art soft robots technology, advanced control algorithms and cognitive robotics to assist the
frail senior users with their bathing activities, thus fostering the prolongation of their active and
independent living. Within the project, medical experts together with social scientists are performing behavioural
and sociological studies to provide guidelines to engineers who in turn employ new tools (soft robots, shared
control, cognitive robotics) and architectures to develop a service robot for assisting bathing activities that
address safety, acceptability usability and cost-effectiveness issues.