Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

MOVAID - Mobility and activity assistance system for the Disabled

SHORT DESCRIPTION The MOVAID project proposed, applied and validated some innovative concepts for the design and development of modular robotic solutions to the problem of personal assistance, by implementing a mobile robotic system and dedicated interfaces to standard appliances.
The final objective of the MOVAID project was to demonstrate how mass consumer technological products, when accessible for disabled and elderly people, can enhance their level of autonomy in everyday activities and how even a robotic solution is not only technical feasible, but also acceptable from the user's point of view, if integrated in a modular assistance system.
Statistical data show that the number of people needing assistance in everyday life has grown and is still growing rapidly both in Europe and in America and Japan. At the same time, the rapid widespread of electronic and mechatronic technologies in the last decades has led to a massive introduction of technological devices in many aspects of every day life, from vocational activity to hobby and leisure. If technology can improve quality of life of people, that is particularly true for less autonomous people, such as the disabled and the elderly. For them, technology, in general, and robotics, in particular, can provide a variety of solutions, ranging from 'soft' and cheap telematics and IT tools, to mechatronic aids and robotic assistants.
The basic philosophy of the project relies on the concepts of 'design for all' and 'user oriented approach', as key factors for the introduction of technology in everyday activities. Such concepts concretized in the functional and physical distribution of the modular system in the house, including docking facilities for mobile assistance units.
The MOVAID system comprises of a number of fixed workstations (PCs), located where main activities are carried out at home, such as the kitchen and the bedroom, and a mobile robotic unit able to navigate in the house avoiding unexpected obstacles, to grasp and manipulate common objects and to dock to the fixed workstations for data exchange and power supply.
Commands to the robot are given in a high level language through a graphical interface running on the fixed workstations. On the user interface, continuous visual feed-back from on-board cameras is also shown to the user, allowing him/her not only to monitor what the robot is doing, but also to collaborate with it, by indicating objects and positions directly on the screen. Typical tasks for the system, defined on the identified users' needs, are: to warm up some food in a microwave oven and serve it at user's bed, to clean the kitchen surface, to remove dirty sheets from a bed.
The validation phase clearly demonstrated the validity of the MOVED concepts and gave important indications for the prosecution of activities in the field of rehabilitation technology.
The elderly people involved in the user trials on the microwave oven interface, though possessing a generalized negative attitude towards microwave technology, showed a highly positive approach towards the interface, which they found simple and easy to use. The robotic system was proposed to a heterogeneous sample of motor disabled people, and it was enthusiastically accepted especially by the severely disabled and by those with poor or no functionality of upper limbs.
During the project lifetime, MOVAID stood as the front end of the state of the art in Rehabilitation Robotics, and represented the European attempt to propose robotic solutions to the problem of personal assistance to disabled and elderly people.
Strategically lines for future exploitation of the results have been identified in the validation of the prototype system, in the dissemination of the project results towards potential users and sector industries, and commercialization on demand of the whole integrated system and of the single components, most of which are currently commercially available as stand-alone devices.
The new philosophy for technical activity will aim to increase performances and to reduce costs, by relying on commercial components. The aspect of extended validation with end users will be especially stressed, for maintaining the user oriented approach and tuning the future activity on the possibly changing users' needs, and will basically rely on the contacts and facilities available thanks to SSSA's actions on the local area.

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