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Ubiquitous Robotics to Support Older Adults with Dementia

Keywords: intelligent robot, aging-in-place, activities of daily living (ADL), user customization, assistive technology.

Overview of Research

Dementia affects more than 35 million people worldwide, and according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada there are currently 700,000 Canadians living with dementia. The cognitive deficits related to this disease (e.g., memory loss, communication or reasoning disorders) affect the ability of older adults to independently go through their activities of daily living (ADL). One strategy that has gained significant attraction is the use of technology that can support aging-in-place, so that older adults maintain independence and quality-of-life longer. These solutions have included systems that can support older adults with dementia during self-care activities through the use of prompts, technologies to support safety in the home such as monitoring falls and other potential accidents, and the use of robotics for cognitive support and training. However, as these systems are currently embedded into specific locations in the home, they are immobile, static and lack “social” interactions, which could affect users’ engagement during ADLs.

One solution to tackle these issues is to implement technologies that support aging-in-place on a robotic platform. Hence, the goal of this project is to develop a robot-cloud platform to extend the capabilities of CrossWing’s robotic platform, virtualME (See Figure 1), using a cloud-based architecture, and to expand on the current research programs of the academic team to deliver services that have been determined as critical in supporting older adults with dementia in the home:

  1. Tele-medicine/presence,
  2. Activity monitoring and prompting,
  3. Safety and emergency response.

Our primary research and development work will consist of:

  • Determining the various algorithms that will need to be integrated and further developed, and which of these will be operated from the cloud-based platform versus locally on the robot.
  • Integration of core algorithms to support the above new services, specifically algorithms related:
    1. Perception
    2. Behavior reasoning and
    3. User customization
  • Extension of three services (described above) onto the robotic platform.
  • Integration of the overall system, which will then be tested for functionality, safety, and usability.
  • VirtualMe Platform

    Figure 1. VirtualMe Platform

    Research Team

    Alex Mihailidis, University of Toronto

    Bing Ye, Project Manager, University of Toronto

    Raisul Alam, Post-doctoral fellow, University of Toronto

    Muhammad Rasuil Alam, Post-doctoral fellow, University of Toronto & Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

    Goldie Nejat, University of Toronto

    Sheila Mcllraith, University of Toronto

    François Michaud, University of Sherbrooke

    Steve Sutherland, CrossWing

    Steven Shapiro, University of Toronto

    Shayne Lin, University of Toronto

    Sanjif Rajaratnam, University of Toronto

    Dominic Létourneau, University of Sherbrooke

    Sébastien Laniel, University of Sherbrooke

    Funding Sources

    Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)


    Ontario Centers of Excellence (OCE)