Robots for Grandma and Grandpa

We all know the image: A future full of flying cars, meals in pill form, and robots to cater to our every need. (Until, of course, they take over and rule with a — literal — iron fist.) We may not have flying cars or Willy Wonka-style pills, but the catering robots are here, and they're after Grandma and Grandpa.

Though robotic assistance is nothing new — a variety of such machines having been available for some time — there is a new entry on the scene that is just a little bit different. Charlie is a "HealthBot," a robot specifically designed to help care for residents at Selwyn Retirement Village in Auckland, New Zealand — one custom made to meet their needs.

Charlie came to be as the result of a study at the University of Auckland. Researchers investigated Selwyn residents' thoughts about robots, and how they could be used to provide vital services. Also of interest was the a more psychological matter — how the robots should look to make residents most comfortable with their presence.

The study revealed that Selwyn residents felt most comfortable with an attendant that did not mimic human features, had no preference for male or female, but did have a clear voice — described as "middle-aged." A short, stocky build was most popular, resulting in Charlie's 3.6 foot stature. He boasts a ceiling-based navigation system — Stargazer — along with the expected accessories: speech recognition, sensors to avoid obstacles, cameras, and of course, wireless internet.

Several residents expressed opposition to the robot having a human face. To accommodate this, Charlie has a touch screen instead, standing at 10.4 inches. While his his user interface runs Windows — go with what the seniors might know, we suppose — Carlie is Open Source at heart. His hardware is controlled by a Linux system, which no doubt will prove useful when the machine uprising comes.

As for his pre-uprising usefulness, Charlie offers a number of services, based on residents' responses to the study. Researchers learned — unsurprisingly, we think — that participants preferred that personalized services like giving medical advice, assessing their emotions, and offering personal care, remain human tasks. General tasks were fine for Charlie, however: lifting, cleaning, calling medical providers or for help, and checking vital signs. (Something like a three-foot-tall combination of the supermarket blood pressure machine, a Roomba, and LifeAlert...)

Perhaps if he does well, we'll all soon have a Charlie of our own.

______________________

Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

If there is to be a machine uprising...

JimmyTheGeek's picture

...we need to get Sarah & John Connor on our side!

Great idea for the elderly, though.

"Something like a three-foot-tall combination of the supermarket blood pressure machine, a Roomba, and LifeAlert..." -- ROFL!!

two OS in one robot?

Anonymous's picture

Hmmm...I'd like to know more. How can Charlie/Carlie run on Linux and Windows? Virtualbox or some such?

White Paper
Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI

Linux has become a key foundation for supporting today's rapidly growing IT environments. Linux is being used to deploy business applications and databases, trading on its reputation as a low-cost operating environment. For many IT organizations, Linux is a mainstay for deploying Web servers and has evolved from handling basic file, print, and utility workloads to running mission-critical applications and databases, physically, virtually, and in the cloud. As Linux grows in importance in terms of value to the business, managing Linux environments to high standards of service quality — availability, security, and performance — becomes an essential requirement for business success.

Learn More

Sponsored by Red Hat

White Paper
Private PaaS for the Agile Enterprise

If you already use virtualized infrastructure, you are well on your way to leveraging the power of the cloud. Virtualization offers the promise of limitless resources, but how do you manage that scalability when your DevOps team doesn’t scale? In today’s hypercompetitive markets, fast results can make a difference between leading the pack vs. obsolescence. Organizations need more benefits from cloud computing than just raw resources. They need agility, flexibility, convenience, ROI, and control.

Stackato private Platform-as-a-Service technology from ActiveState extends your private cloud infrastructure by creating a private PaaS to provide on-demand availability, flexibility, control, and ultimately, faster time-to-market for your enterprise.

Learn More

Sponsored by ActiveState