Skip to main content

Enabling Robot and assisted living environment for Independent Care and Health Monitoring of the Elderly

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ENRICHME (Enabling Robot and assisted living environment for Independent Care and Health Monitoring of the Elderly)

Berichtszeitraum: 2016-09-01 bis 2018-02-28

ENRICHME is designed to enhance the day-to-day experiences of elderly people at home by means of technologies that enable health monitoring, complementary care, and social support, helping them to remain active and independent for longer and improving their quality of life. The ENRICHME system consists of an interactive mobile robot integrated within a domestic smart environment and RFID ecosystem, for long-term human monitoring and interaction. The ENRICHME robotic platform is capable of moving autonomously in the elderly person’s house, periodically but discretely monitoring the activities and some of his/her physiological parameters. To achieve this, the robot is in constant communication with a smart-home system comprising RFID-tagged objects and various sensors in strategic points of the environment. Typical services include reminders about appointments or important activities, which are communicated by the robot using the most appropriate voice tone and visual signals, thanks to its adaptive human-robot interaction capabilities. The human-robot interaction also explores motivation and success in learning by applying concepts from game theory and collective decision making, in order to dynamically optimize the interaction parameters and to provide encouragement through time-extended personalized protocols.
The design of the ENRICHME system was defined taking into account the complexity of the ethical and legal issues and also the needs and expectations of the final users through qualitative and quantitative investigations. Based on the results of an ad-hoc developed questionnaire the Users’ Needs, Requirements, and Abilities Questionnaire (then published and also adopted by other scientific institutions) and on the comparison with other EU projects, the functional and non-functional requirements were identified and then reviewed according to the identified use cases. The architecture design of the whole system was based on these requirements considering the current technological progresses and feasibility, the standards and interoperability issues. Services provided by the ENRICHME system were then delivered by an integrated and coordinated execution of tasks, mostly implemented as software modules. Some experiments were conducted during the development of the ENRICHME system to preliminary test it at the technical level on: stress and deception detection; influence of personality on task execution when being reminded by a robot; teaching healthy nutrition habits with the robot; effects of stress and user’s personality. In parallel, pilot partners were committed in the refinement of subject selection criteria and in the design of testing procedures then submitted to the local ethical committee to gain the approval for testing implementation. Three AAL laboratory tests were conducted in Italy and the Netherlands to evaluate and improve the readiness level of the ENRICHME system in the controlled environment of the AAL laboratories, with respect to its applicability in real user's homes. The tests with TIAGo took place in Italy and the Netherlands by involving 12 participants with MCI according to the defined inclusion and exclusion criteria as well as formal and informal caregivers. They were asked to perform a set of scenarios and provide their feedback on their experience. The test scenarios were to reproduce situations that can occur in the daily living of an older person, for which the ENRICHME prototype provides support. The duration of the test sessions for each user was approximately 3 hours. In general, users and caregivers perceived the system as useful. The findings and constraint in relation to the usability and overall acceptance of the ENRICHME system were used for further development of the system and for the long term validation in elderly homes and residential facilities. The ENRICHME system was then validated in 2 elderly housing facilities (in Lincolnshire, UK and in Vari/Aghia Paraskevi, Greece) and in the community (in Poznan, Poland). Each of the validation sites received 2 ENRICHME systems comprising the TIAGo robot and the set of ambient sensors. As 2 runs of validation were planned in every centre, the ENRICHME system was validated by 4 subjects in each country. Altogether, the system has been validated with 12 participants. In AKTIOS and PUMS, 4 additional participants were involved in a control group with their regular care and matched with subjects from the active group. The active arm comprised the interaction with the robot for 2.5 months (with some extra time in Poland). During the validation period, all the technical partners were in in constant communication with the pilot sites to provide technical assistance and to implement additional improvements. The ENRICHME project confirmed that even among the oldest people with MCI there are those who can be potential beneficiaries of interaction with the robot. The TIAGo robot was real support for them, by making it possible to increase cognitive, physical and social activity as well as by improving nutrition. Thus, the interventions of the ENRICHME system seem to have nonspecific social stimulation effects (by stimulating social contacts), as well as more specific effects concerning cognitive training and physical activity as well as diet improvement. Based on the literature, all these interventions may have a positive influence on the functioning of persons with MCI. Due to this, the use of the TIAGo robot may help people with MCI to play an active role in managing their condition. Self-management offers a way of helping people with MCI by increasing their abilities to manage the symptoms, treatment, physical and psychosocial consequences and lifestyle changes inherent in living with a chronic condition. The diversity of the robot’s functions may be connected with higher compliance, and it is necessary to bear in mind that factors enhancing compliance should be specially considered in the design of psychosocial interventions for older adults with cognitive decline. The implementation of the project also showed that, in order to realistically evaluate human-robot interactions, it is essential to observe and monitor validations in long term, because of the confusion caused by the introduction of the robot. This statement confirms the proper selection of the research model.
The achievement of the ENRICHME’s research is:
● remote support on daily activities, well-being with physical exercises and personalized healthy lifestyles of people with cognitive deficits. While robots cannot replace humans, we collected a huge quantity of data about the degree in which robots can augment humans, by directly interacting with the person. Social impact is also on the families of the older persons, by improving their capacity to care for him/her.
● scientific community by proposing novel technological solutions for real-world applications of robotics and Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) in the context of elderly care, and by validating long term studies of these solutions.
● socio-economic impacts were not easy to demonstrate in the project because of the high costs of the prototypal solutions adopted and the low number of equipment provided, but the project activities demonstrated that there is a high potential market in the context of elderly care by developing in commercial products the solutions adopted in the project.