The Robot-Era has commenced. This is the name of the project born in the Robotics Institute at the [Istituto di Robotica] Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, that provides elderly individuals with a special assistant for their everyday lives – a robot assistant. A few days in the Peccioli (near Pisa) incubator, the European project that took off in 2012 and is scheduled to end in 2015, was presented to the academic world, to businesses and to potential developers. It was also recently the winner of the Well-Tech Award, which every year identifies the sustainable technologies that are most innovative or that have the greatest impact on the quality of life. The project’s goal is to develop robotic systems that are able to interact with elderly populations within domestic environments in order to promote the highest level of autonomy and quality of life through a 360 degree assistance: under the coordination of project manager Filippo Cavallo, Robot-Era’s answer to this question comes in the form of a design of three robots that are able to operate and collaborate among themselves and the user in three different environments, such as the residence, the apartment building, and the outside.

The domestic robot helps the elderly person to shop on-line, with house-cleaning chores, and the administration of medicines. The apartment building robot carries out custodial and security functions. The outside robot can accompany the user on a walk, or to carry out simple errands. During 2013, the first tests of the robot-user interaction benefited form the collaboration of approximately fifty elderly individuals from the cities of Pisa and Angen (Sweden), whose university is a partner on the project. Then, the actual testing was carried out in Peccioli’s DomoCasa laboratory, and in an assisted living facility in Angen, where daily living conditions were replicated. The elderly individuals found collaboration with the robotic systems – named Doro, Coro and Oro – to be optimal. Phase 2, which includes a testing cycle of the three robotic systems in real environment, will begin in 2015.

“Robot-Era – highlights Filippo Cavallo, a researcher at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna – tasks itself with the ambitious goal of accelerating the development and increasing the diffusion of robotics services for elderly [populations], demonstrating not only its technical and scientific feasibility, but also tackling the legal, ethical, social and economic aspects that could lead to the concrete development of a market for robotic services, a sector in which Italian research is at the forefront, and is able to coordinate international groups. 

In partnership with IlSole24ore