alzheimers telepresence robot

Remotely controlled robot used to assess patients living with Alzheimer’s

Image credit: heriot watt university

Doctors are using tele-presence robotic technology to treat patients remotely and assess their physical and cognitive health from anywhere in the world.

The new project from Heriot-Watt University is designed to reduce the cost of diagnosis as well as allow for more regular monitoring and health assessments. It is thought it could be particularly useful for those living with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments.

The technology has been developed at the University’s National Robotarium, a research facility that has been supported by £21m from the UK government.

Dr Mauro Dragone from the National Robotarium: “With gaps between assessments lengthening, the care and support that is being prescribed to assist vulnerable people may become unsuitable as an individual’s physical and cognitive abilities change over time.

“Our prototype makes use of machine learning and artificial-intelligence techniques to monitor smart home sensors to detect and analyse daily activities. We are programming the system to use this information to carry out a thorough, non-intrusive assessment of an older person’s cognitive abilities, as well as their ability to live independently.”

The tele-presence robot is equipped with powerful sensors to help doctors make a more informed opinion and it can operate in a semi-autonomous mode.

Clinicians and carers can also benefit from the data provided by the project’s intelligent sensing system or the robot directly, over the internet, to interact with the individual under their care.

They can see through the eyes of the robot, move around the room or between rooms and operate its arms and hands to carry out more complex assessment protocols. They can even respond to emergencies and provide assistance when needed.

Now that the team has tested the feasibility of their concept in the laboratory, they plan to co-design activities with clinicians and potential users of the technology, before running a pilot study.

Dr Mario Parra Rodriguez from the University of Strathclyde said: “The experience of inhabiting a distant robot through which I can remotely guide, assess, and support vulnerable adults affected by devastating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, grants me confidence that challenges we are currently experiencing to mitigate the impact of such diseases will soon be overcome through revolutionary technologies.”

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