€4m study uses robots to care for people with dementia

The MARIO project, led by the National University of Ireland, will test the use of the innovative Kompaï robot

The Kompaï robot

A €4m study is set to use robots to provide care for older people with dementia.

The MARIO project has been launched at the National University of Ireland (NUI) in Galway and will bring together partners from academic institutions and industry across Europe. It will be led by the NUI’s School of Nursing and Midwifery.

Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, the researchers will work together to tackle the burdens imposed by dementia using innovative ‘caring robots’.

We will be working directly with people with dementia to ensure the issues they see as important are addressed

Over the next three years, three pilot studies will be undertaken - in the west of Ireland, Stockport in England, and in Italy.

The technology at the heart of the study is the Kompaï robot, designed and developed by French firm, Robosoft. It has been created to assist older people at home.

Currently a first-generation R&D model is available for developers to enhance. It is expected the robot will be able to help with reminders, prescription adherence, and scheduling; as well as offering internet access, videoconferencing, and social networking. It can also provide day-to-day help around the home.

The robot has autonomous navigation, voice synthesis and recognition, on-board security systems, and full internet access. In addition, the exterior shell can be customised and software added.

This will make a huge difference to the lives of people with dementia

Professor Kathy Murphy, communication strategist for the MARIO project, said: “This will make a huge difference to the lives of people with dementia.

“We will be working directly with people with dementia to ensure the issues they see as important are addressed. Multi-faceted interventions will be developed, which will be delivered by humanoid robots.”

Project co-ordinator, Dr Dympna Casey of NUI Galway, added: “All interactions with caregivers, persons with dementia, older persons, and stakeholders during the study will fully comply with standards-based medical assessment methodologies and aspire to provide a truly user-led design ethos.”

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