IBM Working On Robotic Roommate That Helps Elderly Folks Stay Safe

Image courtesy of IBM

While many people would love to live out the rest of their days happily ensconced in their home, living alone is not always the safest option for elderly folks. But because around-the-clock care — either in a nursing home, assisted living, or from a personal nurse — isn’t always feasible, IBM is working on a robot designed to keep an eye on senior citizens and help them stay safe.

IBM is working with Rice University to develop a series of sensors that would live inside a robot interface and could detect things like when the stove’s burners are on, or when a person has fallen down, Business Insider reports.

The prototype is also equipped with cameras that read facial expressions, and speech recognition powered by Watson so it knows when to call for help.

The developers have been testing the IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant (IBM MERA) at IBM’s “Aging in Place” lab in Austin, Texas, which was designed to mimic experiences seniors may encounter in their gown home.

The new technology addresses a growing need for technology that seniors can reliably access without disrupting their daily lives, while still maintaining their independence, a senior technologist at IBM Researcher explains. Such tech must be “frictionless.

“If you slap an Apple Watch on an 88-year-old, that’s not feasible for most 88-year-olds,” Susanne Keohane tells BI. “That’s just not in their world.”

MERA isn’t ready to move in with your grandpa anytime soon, however, as Keohane adds that IBM has a lot of research to do before the robot can hit the market: Japan already has robots aimed at caring for the elderly, and might be a likely candidate to adopt the technology early on, she adds.

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