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And now Stevie, a Robot to care for the Elderly and Disabled

And now Stevie, a Robot to care for the Elderly and Disabled

by Yash Saboo November 30 2017, 5:59 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 58 secs

It was only a month ago when we read about Sophia, the first female robot to get citizenship in Saudi Arabia. With the ability to show emotion she is no less than a human. And now researchers and engineers at the Trinity College Dublin have unveiled a prototype recently, a first of its kind robot called Stevie. The robot, built in Ireland, is designed to help in care facilities. When fully developed it will be able to assist elderly and people living with disability. They have put him together using a PlayStation controller and 3D-printed plastic arms and a head - by any means necessary.

"It will help people to live independently, help people to live in their homes longer," said Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Conor McGinn.

According to RTE, Stevie has been purposely designed to look like a human, with two arms and a head that houses a face upon which a mouth appears. This head interface can show facial expressions to reflect the robot's "emotions", making it capable of providing social feedback to those it is interacting with. It also has inbuilt sounds, lights, a camera and a battery of sensors to enable it to interact intelligently.

The robot's function is not simple. It has to respond to the elderly and disabled people living alone, which can be really complex. Stevie has been programmed to recognize what is normal and abnormal behaviour for an elderly person and to notify someone if something is out of the ordinary. He uses a camera, phone, and Wi-Fi to do this, and can turn lights and household appliances on and off.

The Journal writes, "In a series of demonstrations at the Science Gallery today, Stevie and 62-year-old Tony, who helps the researchers tweak the robot to be at his most useful, played out a few scenarios, where having an assisted living robot would be useful. In one such case, Tony tells Stevie he’s going up to bed, and to turn the lights off once he leaves the room. This eliminates the fear that an elderly person might fall after turning the lights off when heading to bed. In another case, Stevie asks Tony if he takes his medication, as many elderly people do forget to take their daily medication, which can have serious health impacts. In another case, Stevie calls for help when Tony falls asleep at the dinner table, which the robot recognizes is unusual for him."

Conor McGinn tweeted after the unveiling of the robot in front of 1200 people, "Was a very proud moment last night watching our new social robot ‘Stevie’ make his debut in front of 1200 people at the NCH. Big thanks to the team, @daraobriain & @shanedbergin for making it run so smoothly. Press release with more details on robot out today. #ScienceWeek #TCD"

Stevie has been designed to be personal. At first, Tony joked, "would the robot sound like HAL from 2001 the Space Odyssey or would he be like Croydon from Deep Space Nine or a cross between the two of them, or maybe Robocop!”

Stevie doesn't creep out anybody.

It’s expected that it will be offered as a service or a package, rather than a single robot, and that the first assisted living robot will be market-ready by 2021. The first pilot is scheduled to take place in the summer of 2018. Created at an estimated cost of €10,000, ‘Stevie’ the robot is the result of a decade worth of research and took two years to construct in its current guise.

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