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An autonomous, self-driven robot system to improve the mobility and integration of people, creating a more equal and accessible society

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WiiGO (An autonomous, self-driven robot system to improve the mobility and integration of people, creating a more equal and accessible society)

Reporting period: 2018-02-01 to 2018-04-30

In Europe there are around 80 million people with a mild to severe disability, which prevents them from taking part fully in society. Worldwide, about 1 billion people experience some form of disability. The EU and its Member States have a strong mandate to improve the social and economic situation of people with disabilities. These individuals face significant mobility constraints in their daily routines. An example of such routine difficulties that disabled individuals face is when they go shopping, as pushing a cart/trolley can be a huge challenge, especially when filled with merchandise. Retail shops lose out on significant amount of revenue by ignoring the needs of people with reduced mobility. In 2016, the combined spending power of the disabled community in the UK was reported to be £249 billion. Over 60% of purchases are made during the “shopping experience” – when the customer feels comfortable in the shopping area. Shops fail to capitalise on this market segment due to inaccessibility, which creates a negative feeling for shoppers with disabilities by limiting their comfort and independence.

The WiiGO system is an autonomous and self-driven robotic system that follows a specific user or else can be programmed to move independently on a pre-planned or self-automated route. WiiGO uses the latest technology on image recognition, machine learning and artificial intelligence that allows for it to track users autonomously, while identifying and avoiding any obstacle along the way. WiiGO can be adapted for different applications such as for retail shops, logistics and as a general autonomous concierge. WiiGO has a comprehensive set of features which allow it to enhance the shopping experience by helping customers navigate the store more effectively. It has the capacity to guide consumers to the location of products they seek and record information along its path, supporting users in their activities of daily life, while helping retailers to cover some of the more tedious and time consuming tasks of their operations such as stock-checking.
We assessed and validated our business model and created a robust supply chain for commercialisation, through research with internal resources and outreach to major stakeholders in the future of our product. These included suppliers and contract manufacturers, robotics distribution companies, and supermarkets who are willing to host pilot trials. We assessed the market and forces driving growth in mobility aids and automated guided vehicles, concluding that not only is there significant business opportunity for us, but a major opportunity to improve accessibility throughout Europe for persons of reduced mobility.

The main findings are summarised below:
• The first demonstration trials conducted with supermarkets allowed WiiGO to determine the final requirements for users and customers. Sequential optimisation in the Phase 2 project will be focused on these aspects.
o The autonomous pathfinding algorithms still require additional optimisation.
o The UI can be improved to enhance the usability by all persons.
o Capability for displaying in-store advertisements can be easily integrated to the platform.
• Securing participants for the pilot trials was a crucial achievement of the Phase 1 project. We successfully secured trial locations with Auchan, Intermarché, Sonae, Edeka, Carrefour, and COOP, with each agreeing to host 3 WiiGO Retail units for a 12 month trial.
• A large available market was identified for WiiGO: Detailed analysis of the market size and different segments identified that the Total Available Market has a value over $10.48bn.
• We defined the commercialisation strategy and decided to commercialise initially through distributors in the same geographic locations as we will conduct our pilot trial.
We have observed that our platform has a significantly more comprehensive suite of features than current competing solutions. It is also the only solution designed specifically to cater for the needs of people with reduced mobility, rather than just the average shopper.

The European Disability Strategy 2010 – 2020 identifies accessibility, participation, equality, and employment as some of the key areas for action where barriers should be eliminated. WiiGO enhances the independence of end-users by making tasks such as shopping and transporting materials possible without needing support from other people. The project is consistent with the objectives of Political/Institutional Organisation initiatives such as: the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan 2006-2015, whose main goals are to “make things better for people with disabilities in Europe” and “to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society”; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, from the United Nations. Regarding a gender dimension, WiiGO will help restore mobility to pregnant women who may be feeling temporarily restricted when trying to perform routine tasks such as going to the supermarket or moving certain objects.
WiiGO Retail in action during a product demonstration