IBM Working on Bot to Help Elderly Age at Home

Sensors can detect motion, scent, audio, and more
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2017 5:07 PM CST
IBM Working on Bot to Help Elderly Age at Home
This robot could help track vital signs in the elderly.   (IBM Research/Flickr)

Assisted living facilities and personal nurses aren't exactly cheap. And as the Baby Boomer generation ages, finding affordable means of helping people age in the comfort of their own homes could be good not just for seniors, but for their wallets, too. So IBM is working on a prototype bot that could become what Consumerist describes as a "robotic roommate." Built with sensors that can detect anything from change in motion to sounds and scents, the so-called IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant (MERA) could help track whether stove burners are on or the person has fallen. IBM has been developing the sensors alongside Rice University out of its Aging in Place lab in Austin, Texas, reports Business Insider.

And while a senior technologist says there's a lot of work ahead before the robot will be brought to market, including sorting out how to customize a bot's knowledge of a person's home environment, health issues, and more, "in the near-term, it would be more of the ambient sensors in the home starting to gather all of this data." The prototype is already capable of reading facial expressions, capturing vital signs, and recognizing speech. Obvious markets include the US, which is home to more 100-year-olds (75,000) than any other country, and Japan, which is a third the size of the US but has 65,000 people over 100 and, as Business Insider reported earlier this fall, has broken its own record of most centenarians per capita for 46 years in a row. (The vast majority of people who reach 100 do this daily.)

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