The development of social assistive robots is an approach with the intention of preventing and detecting falls among seniors. There is a need for a relatively low-cost mobile robot with an arm and a gripper which is small enough to navigate through private homes.
Material and methods
User requirements of a social assistive robot were collected using workshops, a questionnaire and interviews. Two prototype versions of a robot were designed, developed and tested by senior citizens (n = 49) in laboratory trials for 2 h each and in the private homes of elderly persons (n = 18) for 3 weeks each.
The user requirement analysis resulted in a specification of tasks the robot should be able to do to prevent and detect falls. It was a challenge but possible to design and develop a robot where both the senior and the robot arm could reach the necessary interaction points of the robot. The seniors experienced the robot as happy and friendly. They wanted the robot to be narrower so it could pass through narrow passages in the home and they also wanted it to be able to pass over thresholds without using ramps and to drive over carpets.
User trials in seniors’ homes are very important to acquire relevant knowledge for developing robots that can handle real life situations in the domestic environment. Very high reliability of a robot is needed to get feedback about how seniors experience the overall behavior of the robot and to find out if the robot could reduce falls and improve the feeling of security for seniors living alone.