Senior Safety: Are Robotic Roommate a Solution?

As people are living longer, the ageing population is increasing. And with the ageing population is the demand for more assistance at home or in care.

And technology is developing at such a rate that we may be heading to a future where robots can assist the elderly at home.

IBM is partnering with Rice University in Texas to help develop a “robotic roommate” – whose main purpose would be to help provide company for the elderly while also keeping them safe.

The United Nations have estimated that the population of those over the age of 60 is set to grow by 56 percent worldwide in the next 15 years. IBM want to create new technology to that seniors can reliably access without disrupting their daily lives.

The developing project is called IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant or MERA for short.

The New Technology: Sensor Safety

They are currently in the process of developing a series of sensors that would help MERA interface and could detect changes in the person and the atmosphere.

The sensors will look out for things such as if the person has fallen, any unusual sounds or smells, sudden changes in the heart rate or blood pressure.

In terms of safety, they’re even looking to have the prototype sense whether the stovetop has been left on. The

MERA is also equipped with cameras that read facial expressions, and speech recognition and will for be able to tell to tell when it’s time to call for help.

An initial prototype for MERA has already been made and is currently being test at IBM’s “Aging in Place” lab in Austin, Texas

Exciting Developments…Still a While Away

There is still a long way to go before MERA is ready for people to buy. There’s still a lot of research needed to get the robotic roommate to full functional capacity.

There is already robotic technology like MERA being used to assist the elderly in Japan, and they would be the likely candidates to use the technology early on.

It should be noted that MERA is not meant to replace human care, though it helps with safety, it’s purpose isn’t to take care of the elderly – just to assist should they need help.


What are your thoughts of this type of technology? Would this be something you consider for yourself or a loved one?

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