The CareBot™ - Developed Using Data From the
World's First in Home Trials
of an Eldercare Mobile Service Robot.
GeckoSystems has been performing in-home trials of elder care personal assistance robots since 2002. These trials have made a valuable contribution to the development and design of the CareBot. Input from care givers and the responses of elderly loved ones clearly demonstrates that next-generation practical, personal companion robots have the ability to help caregivers perform critical eldercare monitoring and extend the time that people can live independently. The CareBot home care robot is capable of assisting in senior care in a variety of real-life situations, such as frequent welfare checks, on-time medication reminders, and virtual visits by family members that give a sense of safety, security, and most of all, being reminded that they are a loved and cherished member of the family.
The video above shows the very first in home trial of the CareBot in 2002. The participants were Anna, a grandmother with Alzheimer's, and Bobbi, the caregiving daughter. This trial was designed to tell GeckoSystems developers if the CareBot was ready to market. The cooperation of this family gave them important information on the expectations and concerns of the caregivers and the interaction between the CareBot and the care receiver.
The video conferencing capablity was well received, the family felt that frequent visual check-ins would be reassuring. They also believed that out of state relatives would find this feature valuable for virtual visits. The principal caregiver believed that if they were able to purchase a CareBot she would be able to let her mother stay in her own home longer while still remaining safe.
CareBot developers learned that verbal interaction, an event scheduler, and following capability needed to be added to the current design in order to create a finished, marketable product. This is the sort of information the Alpha trial was designed to provide.
Starting at five minutes into the video the anatomy of the robot is discussed, including the emphasis on off the shelf componants in order to keep the CareBot affordable. The vacuum cleaner shown in the video would have been a practical bonus, but it reduced the CareBot's battery life too much.
This video is compiled from footage shot for a Discovery Channel feature released in 2005. In response to the first trials, the GeckoSystems team has added GeckoChat and GeckoScheduler (see How the CareBot Works) to the sensor fusion platform of GeckoNav (now being marketed as SafePath). The Care Bot was also given the ability to follow the care receiver with a dedicated infrared sensor.
During this trial the R&D team unexpectedly learned that the CareBot needed voice amplification and volume control; they also realized that the interface for GeckoScheduler needed to be more user friendly.
Three Trial Videos - following Grandmother.
These videos were done in early 2010. They are all from a stationary vantage point showing the CareBot autonomously following a grandmother from her bedroom to the kitchen. Unlike other elder care robots being developed, the CareBot is guided by pure artificial intelligence processed in on board computers.
The robot was in sleep mode before being activated by the grandmother's movement out of the room. It then tracked the grandmother down the hallway and found her in the kitchen.
This is the second run using the same scenario after GeckoSystems engineers made various incremental improvements and added additional sensors. Notice also that the robot is traveling through various lighting conditions that will confuse and disorient other robotic navigation systems. The CareBot moves through a naturally lit bedroom into a darkened hallway and then into an artificially lit kitchen.
Additional trials enabled GeckoSystems to upgrade the "sound quality" of GeckoChat so that an elderly person who is hard of hearing can understand the CareBot's synthesized voice. This is important when the CareBot delivers medication reminders, talks about family anecdotes, and expresses valued family behaviors. GeckoScheduler was completely reworked to enhance its flexibility and ease of use. It is now a standalone GeckoSavant instead of being a portion of GeckoChat. GeckoTrak is now more reliable in its ability to automatically --without human intervention-- to find and/or follow the designated care receiver. GeckoSuper is now more efficient and timely in its management of the various GeckoSavants under its control.
Extensive testing in real life situations enables GeckoSystems to provide safe technology that is ready for the retail market.
This is the same demonstration seen above, but from the CareBot's point of view.
During elder care trials, GeckoSystems uses multiple layers of sensors and sensor systems to achieve what some describe as 'actionable situational awareness. For example our CareBots™ are capable of powering down unnecessary systems to lengthen battery life while grandma sleeps, and then power back up automatically if she were to get out of her bed in the middle of the night. The CareBot™ 'watches over' the care receiver using a scientifically developed fusion of sonar, active infrared, passive infrared, etc. to enable the CareBot™ to be aware of the care receiver's movements such that GeckoTrak™ can guide GeckoNav™ to stay proximate to grandma such that GeckoChat™ can have verbal interaction with her. The GeckoSuper™ then determines whether and/or when to automatically notify the caregiver that grandma is up and about at 2:30AM and may need the care giver to look in personally, by video camera or with a physical visit.