April 29 - Scientists at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart have unveiled a third generation robot prototype, designed to assist the elderly in their homes. The 'Care-o-bot 3' is equipped to detect, grasp and carry ordinary household objects on command, and bring a measure of independence to the aged and infirm. Elly Park has more.
Care-O-bot 3 is being promoted by its creators, as the future of in-home care for the elderly. The robot is designed to perform many of the tasks an able-bodied human can, catering for senior citizens who are no longer able to live independent lives.. Birgit Graf of Stuttgart's Fraunhofer Institute, is one of the robot's developers. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BIRGIT GRAF, FRAUNHOFER INSTITUTE "CARE-O-BOT 3" CO-DEVELOPER, SAYING: "At the moment, we have our focus on so called 'fetch and carry' tasks, so the robot is able to take an order. For example, 'bring me a drink to the kitchen' or 'bring me a drink to the living room.' It is able to navigate freely in the environment, find its way to the kitchen, identify the object on the kitchen counter and bring it back to the user where it uses its tray to hand over the objects safely to the user." The robot can be controlled in three different ways, depending on a person's physical capabilities. The person in care can issue instructions via a Smartphone or tablet-PC or, have a companion do it for them with a remote controlled device. Alternatively, the Care-O-bot can be controlled by employees of round-the-clock service stations, using inbuilt sensors on the machine to navigate and steer it remotely. It's anability says Birgit Graf, that could save lives. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BIRGIT GRAF, FRAUNHOFER INSTITUTE "CARE-O-BOT 3" CO-DEVELOPER, SAYING: "In an emergency situation, maybe the user has fallen down, the robot is able to come to the user, provide its screen for the user to set up contact for example with a service centre that can then see what the situation is and what kind of help is needed to really react specifically to the situation." But Graf says the Care-O-Bot is designed to assist human-care givers, not replace them. She says its designers now want to test it in the field to assess its performance and the response of those its designed to help.