Assistive robotics can help Alzheimer’s sufferers function at home longer

Meet Ed, your homecare worker of the future.

Ed will help you make a perfect cup of tea. He’ll remind you where the garbage bin is, and once you’ve thrown out your garbage he’ll remind you to wash your hands. He’ll even show you how to switch on the kettle.

One more thing: Ed is a robot.

For Professor Alex Mihailidis’s (Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering; Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy) laboratory, Ed represents a progression of home care prompting technologies.

Watch a video on Ed at work in the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s HomeLab.

COACH, for instance, a video system developed by Mihailidis’s team at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (TRI), offers prompts to home-care Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers in the bathroom, allowing these patients to stay at home longer.

“The problem is,” suggested Mihailidis, “that you can’t replicate COACH throughout the home.”

Ed, though, is a cost-effective, and mobile alternative. The robot offers verbal and visual prompts as needed, and is designed with no manipulators or abilities to provide complex gestures.

Clinical trials, meanwhile, have been encouraging. “Patients enjoyed working with robot. They wanted Ed to put a sweater or hat on,” stated Mihailidis, demonstrating that Ed was being accepted into the patient’s environment.

And at a mere $500 to $600 to build, Ed may extend hope to people suffering from traumatic memory loss, allowing them to stay at home longer, one cup of tea at a time.