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Robots taking care of our elders

How Italy is testing new technologies in the healthcare system

Robots taking care of our elders

Claudia Astarita

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Robot-Era is the name of the new European project coordinated by the BioRobotics Institute of the Saint Anna Superior School in Pisa (Italy).

The aim of the initiative was to create "perfect butlers" taking care of the elders. The new robots acted as personal assistants of 20 people hosted in 4 nursing homes: in Florence, Angen (Sweden), Peccioli (Pisa) and Ancona.

The elders assisted have given a positive feedback on the performances of the robots. They have learnt how to use them, developing friendly feelings and enjoying their company.

Smart robots are very useful for a number of daily activities, such as taking the rubbish out, communicating with family members, and ensuring high-security standards at home. As a matter of fact, the Robot-Era project seems to be very useful nowadays, where the population is western states is definitely old. Robots could constitute an innovative welfare system to assist old people, having sustainable costs and allowing their users to keep a certain degree of autonomy and good quality of life. In a context where the majority of family members work full time, elders have no one who can take care of them 24 hours a day. Robots represent a valid alternative and the right mix between technology and robotic will make our new hi-tech friends more and more effective in the actions performed.

So far, people involved in the project are 160 and they have all given a positive opinion on Robot-Era. Further development will include an increased multitasking ability in different contexts of action, such as outdoor and at home. Research in this field will certainly continue to improve the product.

Last but not least, beside the Italian Institute of BioRobotics we find as research partners the University of Orebro (Sweden), the University of Hamburg (Germany) and the University of Plymouth (United Kingdom).

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