These Robots Want to Help Seniors Live Independently as They Age


These days, many Americans would prefer to “age in place” – or stay in their home as long as they can live safely, independently and comfortably. How long will depend on each individual, but there’s a lab in Austin hoping to extend the timeline for all of us – with robots.

In North Austin, researchers at IBM are working on ways to apply robotics, artificial intelligence and existing technology to helping seniors age in place.

Nationally, the population is getting older. By  2040, one fifth of Americans will be older than 65. The IBM lab is aimed at integrating existing technology, like sensors, cameras and facial recognition software, with technology they’re developing with Rice University. They’re working on the Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant, or MERA, hoping it can help where stationary monitoring can’t, like in the case of a fall.

“Maybe the robot can take my picture and send it to Flickr or send a text,” said John Sanchez, an architect at IBM Research. “You can also do more investigation. You might have a stationary camera do the same thing, but in this demo, he’s a little more sophisticated and he can move around a little bit.”

IBM researchers are currently using commercially-available tech products and services, like the Nao robot and Flickr, to give researchers an idea how they would integrate MERA and other proprietary products with them down the road.

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