New Flemish robot provides help to carers

The Ghent (East Flanders) research centre Imec and its partners have developed a new care robot that can provided personalised, tailor—made care for people living in care homes. The robot can for example play music in order to calm a person down. The robot is already in use in two care homes in the East Flemish city of Ghent. It’s may well be put to other uses outside geriatric care.

Imec worked together on the development of the robot with Zora Robotics, Xetal and two Ghent care homes: De Vijvers and Weverbos.

Imec wanted to take things a stage further after the development of its house robot Zora. It was decided that a robot should be developed specifically tailored to the needs of the residents of care homes. The project was given the name WONDER.

The developers worked closely with two existing care homes in order to get a true picture of what life is like in such home with elderly residents that need specialised care.

One of the areas given particular attention was that of caring for resident with dementia. How could a robot assist carers looking after people with such specific care needs?

Through the so-called “internet of things” sensors are able to detect where a person is or whether a resident is in need of assistance. The carer receives a message if there are issues and she/he can activate the care robot to go and assist the resident.

The robot can move about under its own steam and give tailor-made help. The robot can adjust its voice level to take account of residents that are hard of hearing, tell stories that are tailored to their particular interests and even play music to help calm a person that is distressed.

Songs from yesteryear

The CEO of Zorabots Tommy Deblieck told VRT News that "Through the WONDER project we have discovered that Zora can be used 24/7 both in a highly interactive and personal way”.

"Zora can walk about in the corridors, see a lost person and recognise them. It can then use its memory bank to find a song from the person’s past in order to put them at ease”.

The sensors that the residents of the care homes have in their rooms also have a kind of alarm mode. This means that the robot can be deployed at just the right time.

Pieter Simoens of the Imec research group at Ghent University told VRT News that "We didn’t want to test the robot in a lab, but rather in a real-life situation”.

"The aim was double: to let the robot move autonomously in an unpredictable environment and to allow it to respond interactively to the needs of the residents”.


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