Robotic Assistants for the Elderly: Designing and Conducting Field Studies

J.T. Matthews, S.J. Engberg, J. Glover, M. Pollack, and S. Thrun (USA)


Personal robots, health care and rehabilitation, medical robotics, and artificial intelligence


Developing technological solutions to the myriad challenges of aging requires harnessing the talents and resources of multiple disciplines, organizations, and funding sources. Soliciting input from older adults who might benefit from the technology is likewise essential, as is ascertaining their response to various design features. In moving early prototypes from the laboratory to preliminary field trials, collaborators need to mesh expertise in hardware and software design with in-depth knowledge of aging and methods for conducting human subjects research. This paper discusses the issues involved in the design and implementation of preliminary field studies for the Nursebot Project, which is part of a larger initiative focused on developing intelligent assistive technology for older adults. We describe how we have established working relationships with staff and residents of local retirement communities where field studies of two personal mobile robots--a humanoid robot and a robotic walker--are being undertaken. We illustrate our approach to several methodologic issues germane to the conduct of research with older adults by describing two field studies, one completed and one planned.

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