Bag-carrying robot ‘companions’ to be trialled in Newcastle to help the elderly | #elderly | #seniors | #execrise
Bag-carrying robots that follow the elderly around and help them with daily chores are set to hit the streets of Newcastle.
The £2,360 machines, known as Gita robots, are able to move at 6mph, carry loads of up 23kg and can communicate with those around them using sound, light and touch.
They are due to be tested on up to 100 elderly volunteers once lockdown restrictions lift as part of a project by the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA).
Professor Nicola Palmarini, Director of NICA, which is based at Newcastle University, claims the robots are similar to “a faithful dog” and can be used to help reduce the rates of loneliness.
“Trust me, when you walk in the street and you have a robot which is following, people stop and ask you things… so there is an interesting approach on how you can fight social isolation, making people in different stages of their life more visible.”
The robots would also help older people hit their 10,000 steps a day target, he added. “While there has been much focus recently on electric bikes or self-driven vehicles, we believe Gita could encourage a more practical, sustainable and healthy mode of transport – walking.”
Each robot can be “paired” with one person at a time. They are then programmed to follow that person constantly, stopping only when they stop.
The researchers are planning to study how humans interact with the robots and whether older people find them easy and enjoyable to use.
This is the first time the robots, which are sold commercially by US company Piaggio Fast Forward, are being trialled in the UK. Early tests of the machines taking place at the 24-acre Newcastle Helix innovation cluster.