Cognitive machines assist independent living as we age

Share this post:

We’ve all had that so-called “senior moment.” Leaving your wallet at a restaurant. Forgetting where you put your house key. Or maybe it’s physical, like no longer being able to take the stairs up to your office at work. As we age, mental and physical challenges do creep up. And we need assistance to stay healthy, mobile, and independent. It’s why the Research team collaborated with Rice University to build an IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant (IBM MERA) in our just-announced Aging in Place environment in the IBM Austin THINKLab.

We’re hard at work training IBM MERA (mee-rah) in our lab, as well as installing a sensor platform in a mock living room, kitchen, hospital room, and retail space. IBM MERA can do everything from “see” someone who has fallen (and help them if they can’t get up); and answer health-related questions, such as “what are symptoms of a stroke?”, to even scan and read heart rate, heart rate variability, and breathing rate. This cognitive technology of speech-to-text, text-to-speech, natural language processing, and Watson Dialogue Q&A, plus Rice’s CameraVitals visual recognition technology (IBM MERA’s eyes), are funneled and analyzed through IBM MERA’s body, currently a SoftBank Pepper robot, via our cloud.

The sensor network built into the lab is connected to that same toolkit of technology. With sensors in the floor, walls, ceiling, and other objects, like wearables, this cognitive agent “collective” can learn patterns of how and when the elderly wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, exercise, or take medication – and offer verbal reminders to take a medication if they forget (or maybe change the light color for those who are hearing impaired). Some of this IBM Accessibility technology is already out in the real world, like the homes of some over-65 residents of Bolzano, Italy, where we’re testing solutions with local government to help their citizens live independently, longer.

Sole Coopertiva, a client key to our aging initiative, is using this immersive technology to create smart home environments for their senior customers. In the video below, they describes how working with IBM is helping expand their services, such as safety and general higher quality of living for the senior citizen population they support.

The collaboration with Rice was a natural extension of a relationship we’ve had with the university for years. A long-time partner in Systems research, Rice’s growth in data sciences perfectly aligns with our cognitive computing strategy. Their researchers in sensors, image recognition, and behavioral science will join us in the lab to help develop and test aging scenarios we’ve hardly even begun imagining.

How do people want to interact with a computer when they’re sick? What’s the most-effective way to connect this data to third parties, such as emergency medical services? Where do you store a robot in someone’s home?

Those questions and many others are what we want to answer with Rice.

Our pilot will focus on in-home care support. We understand that not every person wants a robot in their home – or would necessarily need one. So, we want to find and develop the best way to help seniors stay in their homes for as long as possible. And, as the lab and the number of partners expand, we’ll explore cognitive environments in hospitals, and assisted living facilities.

Institutions and businesses interested in learning more about this technology, and visiting our Aging in Place environment can contact our IBM Access team.

More about aging in place


More Accessibility stories

Archaeologists Seek to Unearth Mysterious Geoglyphs in Peru Using IBM AI and Geospatial Data

After uncovering a new Nasca Line formation with IBM Watson Machine Learning Accelerator on IBM Power Systems, Yamagata University will deploy IBM PAIRS in the hopes of further discoveries with AI.

Continue reading

IBM’s African Scientists Look to Tackle the Continent’s Pressing Healthcare Challenges with AI

A majority of African countries still have fewer than one doctor for every one thousand people, and with the African population expected reach 1.6 billion by 2030, up from 1 billion in 2010, this is not just problematic, but catastrophic. Just as alarming is that the World Health Organization projects that by 2020 the burden […]

Continue reading

Progress in IBM & Hartree Collaboration Reduces Physical Prototype Testing, Protects Crops from Pests and Improves Mobile Phone Coverage

More than 24 months ago, IBM and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre set an ambitious goal for themselves — enable UK businesses to use modelling, simulation and Big Data Analytics on real problems to develop better products and services that will boost productivity, drive growth, increase UK competitiveness and create jobs. […]

Continue reading