The cost of senior living can be astronomical and as the baby boomer generation ages, finding affordable care in the comfort of their own homes turns to a necessity. To bring progress to this issue. IBM is working on a prototype of a robot that could become the official “robotic roommate.” Built with sensors that can detect anything from change in motion to sounds and scents, the 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.
A senior IBM 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. The new technology addresses the need for reliable access to assistance without disrupting the daily lives of our aging population, so that they can continue their independence.
“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.” But accessible technology is. MERA isn’t ready to move in with your grandpa anytime soon, however, as Keohane adds.
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.