Robotics engineers from Trinity College Dublin unveiled their first prototype social robot designed to work in assisted care at the Maker Faire Rome 2018, which is Europe’s largest conference for makers and inventors.
Six of our @tcdengineering researchers and their now-famous friend, 'Stevie', are currently showcasing their next-gen robotics research at Europe's largest maker event, the Maker Faire Rome.— Trinity College Dublin (@tcddublin) October 12, 2018
To read more, see: https://t.co/ELxg4B0tpN pic.twitter.com/EIQruIgaYk
Initially, Stevie the robot is going to facilitate and help the elderly and people living with disability in Ireland.
Stevie is a friendly looking robot with some human-like features. He performs some autonomous tasks and some others are human-controlled. Some of Stevie's first tasks include performing routine rounds in nursing homes and assisted care facilities.
“Nursing homes face significant care challenges, especially during the night when caregiver-to-resident ratios are low. Our solution can perform several routine tasks, which will improve efficiency and substantially alleviate pressure on care staff during periods when the facility may be understaffed,” said Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at Trinity, Conor McGinn, head at the Innovation and Robotics Lab. Dr. Conor McGinn holds a degree in Engineering and a Ph.D in Robotics from Trinity College Dublin.
Meet Stevie the social robot
Stevie's two arms and head interface allow him to provide social feedback to people working in his vicinity. Sounds, lights, facial expressions, and body language help Stevie to communicate and respond appropriately to different situations he may encounter.
Stevie is mobile and uses cameras in addition to depth, tactile, inertial, and voltage sensors that allow him to interact intelligently with his environment. On-board processors and wireless connectivity such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth diversify Stevie's potential uses. In addition to performing common functional tasks, Stevie can interact socially with residents.
"Through interaction with the robot, residents can control the TV stations, call a loved one, and control lights.”
“The social interaction that is possible with the robot brings many
benefits. First, it provides a compelling way to reduce boredom and stimulate mental activity. It can have basic conversations with its users and play a series of simple games, and on a grander level, it can function as a control interface with many different types of technology," Professor McGinn said.
To gain insight on the residents' needs at care centers, the Trinity team consulted with a wide range of experts during the robot’s development
including nurses and caregivers as well as elderly patients living in assisted care facilities.
The Trinity team also started a cooperation with ALONE, an organization in Ireland that supports older people to age at home. ALONE provides and uses technology to support older people to remain independent and socially connected.
Social robots empower older people and health services. According to Professor McGinn, Stevie is being developed to augment, not replace human care.
Stevie and the smart home
Stevie can also be connected to the smart home appliances and monitor things such as the room temperature, notifying the user about changes and offering to make changes.
"We have begun working closely with nursing experts and care organisations to develop a solution that empowers both users and care-givers. Through collaboration with organizations like ALONE, we have been able to get a better understanding of the challenges people face as they get older and get valuable user feedback on many aspects of the
system,” Professor McGinn said.
Stevie the social robot is expected to be market-ready by 2021. Until then, the Trinity team is going to be piloting the technology in several care facilities in both Ireland and the U.S.
The Trinity team of six, led by Professor Conor McGinn, received funding from the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) and InnovaCamera, a Special Agency of the Rome Chamber of Commerce, to take part in the Makers' Faire Rome 2018.