Public Release: 

Ben-Gurion University researchers receive grant for robotic project to assist the elderly

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

BEER-SHEVA, Israel -- May 7, 2015 -- Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers received a grant for a project to advance assistive robotics that will help the elderly complete everyday tasks.

The goal of the project, "Follow Me: Proxemics and Responsiveness for Following Tasks in Adaptive Assistive Robotics," is to advance "robotic adaptive person-following" algorithms (APFA) to include concepts from human-human interaction. The aim is to develop robots that are highly individualized to the special needs of each elderly user. It will focus on improving older users' well being and generate guidelines for future users' attentive robotic assistants.

The algorithms will include social factors and will adjust to user pace, abilities and actions while taking into account the characteristics of the environment and the task, as well. The project's final outcomes will include guidelines for future implementations of the technology and demonstrations.

"While most person-following algorithms focus on the effectiveness and efficiency of the robot, what is unique about our approach is that we focus on the effectiveness of the human-robot interaction by introducing constructs related to proximity in human-human interaction," says Dr. Tal Oron-Gilad," a researcher in BGU's Department of Industrial Engineering and Management. In other words, the robots' behavior will be modeled on how humans interact with each other.

Person-following is an important aspect in assistive robotic applications but, at the same time, is a complex problem to solve. Robotic platforms should move efficiently and have enough power to carry objects. But the people that they need to follow vary in their mobility and the way they walk. The human-robot system must adapt to the individual and be able to maintain the appropriate distance and responsiveness, especially for older users who may be more vulnerable and less technology savvy.

"Robots can assist the elderly in everyday tasks as they seek to age independently," Oron-Gilad says. "Nevertheless, the introduction of assistive robotics into seniors' daily life will be dependent upon user acceptance, satisfaction and affordability."

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Oron-Gilad and Dr. Idit Shalev, Department of Education, received the grant from Israel's Ministry of Science, Technology and Space's Science for the Benefit of Senior Citizens Program.

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision, creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. With some 20,000 students on campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sede Boqer and Eilat in Israel's southern desert, BGU is a university with a conscience, where the highest academic standards are integrated with community involvement, committed to sustainable development of the Negev. AABGU is headquartered in Manhattan and has nine regional offices throughout the United States. For more information, visit http://www.aabgu.org.

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