IBM Research and Rice University have brought their engineering expertise together to create the IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant (IBM MERA). The prototype device is just a start of a collaboration that hopes to combine a variety of sensors with so-called “cognitive computing” to help doctors and caretakers better understand the needs of stay-at-home elderly people they’re caring for.
The sensors will be able to hear, smell, detect motion, and measure the environment for humidity, temperature, and the like. Thanks to Rice University’s technology, the robot will also measure the heart rate and heart rate variability of a person in front of it by simply looking at the slight change of skin color as blood moves in and out of it. Because of the contact-free nature of the robot, it should be able to continuously monitor a person at home without being too much of a nagging nuisance.
All this data will be combined and processed in a smart fashion to be able to detect interesting events and correlations. The robot talks using IBM’s language capabilities and is being adapted to understand medical terms and information specific to this application. Eventually the robot may end up providing guidance and assistance, and perhaps even companionship while serving its central goal of being a high tech guardian angel.
Here’s video from IBM about the new robot: