IBM Develops a Voice-Enabled Eldercare Robot
IBM Research and Rice University have created a prototype IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant (IBM MERA), a Watson-enabled application designed to help assist the elderly and their caregivers.
Running on the IBM Cloud and a Softbank Pepper robot interface, IBM MERA uses IBM Watson technologies and CameraVitals, a technology designed at Rice University that calculates vital signs by recording video of a person's face. These technologies allow IBM MERA to obtain readings on patients' heart and breathing. Combined with IBM Watson Speech to Text and Text to Speech APIs, the camera can also view if a fall has occurred and provide information for caregivers.
IBM MERA is also designed to interact with individuals using IBM Watson Speech to Text, Text to Speech, and Natural Language Classifier APIs.
IBM Research has opened a new "Aging in Place" environment in its ThinkLab in Austin, Texas, to mimic the types of interactions elders might have in their homes. By leveraging IBM MERA, the Internet of Things, and other cognitive-powered technologies, IBM can study how data from atmospheric, motion and falling, audio, and olfactory sensors could be used by caregivers to potentially improve healthcare and wellness as physical or environmental conditions change.
"Now is the time to invest in, care for, protect, and empower our aging population so they can live more independent lives," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of IBM Research, in a statement. "Our new research on 'embodied cognition,' which can combine real-time data generated by sensors with cognitive computing, will explore how to provide clinicians and caregivers with insights that could help them make better care decisions for their patients."
IBM created the prototype robot with students and faculty from Rice University's departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Psychology, and it is being hosted inside the IBM "Aging in Place" research environment. IBM MERA will be used to help study ways of measuring an individual's vital signs, such as heart rate, heart rate variability, and respiratory rate; answer basic health-related questions; and, determine if an individual has fallen by reading the results of an accelerometer.
"The Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant represents the powerful impact that results when leaders in academia and private industry bring their best to bear on pressing societal issues," said Rice Provost Marie Lynn Miranda in a statement. "We are delighted to work with IBM on this critical research project, which provides an opportunity for our students and faculty to collaborate with IBM's best Age and Ability researchers at the IBM Research Lab in Austin."