Funded Projects

The EMERGENCE team are delighted to announce the following projects that have been successful in securing funding via the Robotics for Frailty Challenge call

I need help but my robot can't get down the stairs: A Healthcare Architecture Focused Study

University College London (Lead), Cardiff University, Hobbs Rehabilitation, Gloucester City Homes

Contact: Dr Evangelia Chrysikou

Project Summary

This project will identify the key barriers relating to the built environment and architecture that impact on effective integration and deployment of robotics technologies in the real-world. 

Our homes are not designed for people with frailty or robots. Yet, there is significant research into robot interventions demonstrating great potential for older adults with frailty. The existing technologies could support frail people with activities, such as, exercise and companionship to increase quality of life. Adoption of robots in homes, however, is limited to devices such as automated vacuum cleaners, voice assistants and children’s toys. 

Robotics aimed at assisting older people with frailty have been thus far tested in laboratory settings and the study of real built environments settings for the co-habitation of robots and older people in those settings is often neglected. Putting robots inside real homes can create difficulties that have been, so far, unexplored and this prevents these technologies from reaching their potential, and most importantly prevents people with frailty benefiting from them. 

Within this project we draw on expertise from the field of human-robot interaction, the built environment, population health and clinical practice, to understand and find solutions to facilitate optimisation of human and robot cohabitation for those with frailty. We aim to produce a list of factors that affect cohabitation which will be instrumental components for the creation of guidelines relating to residential built environments for frailty and robot cohabitation, so that both can work effectively and seamlessly together. To that end, we are going to review different robots-for-frailty, in terms of, ability to cohabitate within people’s homes from a built environment perspective.

The research will produce a framework that can lead to better robot-environment integration and design for deployment of robotics technologies in real home settings.

CIREI - Challenges of Integrating Robots with Embodied Intelligence in the Homes of Older People Living with Frailty: Towards a Smart Middleware Architecture

Sheffield Hallam University (Lead), King's College London, University of Sheffield, University of Nottingham, Darnall Wellbeing, Astraline

Contact: Dr Abdel-Karim Al-Tamimi

Project Summary

The CIREI project will address one of the fundamental challenges of integrating different types of smart home and robotics technologies - the lack of an open middleware platform that works across a range of technologies.

Although there is an expanding range of new, smart, and simple robotic and Internet of Things devices to support people living with frailty, the full potential of these is still yet to be realised in creating a truly ‘smart and assistive’ home. In this project, we aim to develop a smart middleware framework (viz. WISE-WARE) to integrate the currently fragmented range of off-the-shelf devices and to help 1) collate data from connected devices to help automate and support residents with their daily activities, and 2) expose the anonymised collected data to a wealth of innovative and evidence-based solutions. 

The CIREI project will start by exploring the current barriers to interoperability and integration, and then address gaps by developing a smart, open middleware framework to support improved access and implementation of robotics technologies and associated IoT systems across different types of facilities. 

By integrating these assistive devices together and drawing from the as-yet untapped data, this project serves as a key enabler for research and applied robotics opportunities to identify where support may be needed the most, to provide better-targeted interventions, and to offer deep insights to inform the development of new and personalised forms of home support. 

Our project sets out to achieve this by surveying the currently available intelligent off-the-shelf robots and services that can be easily integrated into existing home environments to identify the scope for their usage and available data. Drawing from these findings, we will conduct an ideation and co-design workshop with key stakeholders on integrating assistive technology devices into residents' daily routines, and the current challenges associated with integrating assistive technology. Insights and guidance from these inform the development of a smart middleware framework and a simple prototype that showcases the potential benefits of integrating multiple smart platforms. 

CIREI - Intro Video.mp4

Robobrico: A Modular Assistive Robotics Platform Co-designed with Users

Heriot-Watt University (Lead), Konpanion, University of Edinburgh

Contact: Dr Alistair McConnell,

Project Summary

This project addresses the key issues related to ensuring that the robotic platforms can be easily adapted so that they stay relevant to changing needs of the end-user. Also creating modular robots addresses the sustainability agenda which is a key part of responsible research and innovation. 

Society needs to shift towards a caring approach that prioritises the strengths, preferences, and individuality of the ageing population and their communities. The aim is to provide support that recognises their evolving needs, aspirations and abilities, not just their health challenges. After conducting research and participating in design work with institutions for older adults, we observed that current robotic platforms are challenging to interact with. Our co-design work revealed that carers and residents require adaptability and practicality when using these platforms. 

As a result, we decided to develop a solution by using a co-design process and rapid manufacturing framework to create practical robotic modules that meet the changing needs of older individuals. We use advanced additive manufacturing techniques to produce tailored support for adults in later life and their carers.

First, we created multiple modules in collaboration with care home residents as well as their carers. These included a locomotion base designed to accommodate multiple adaptable modules identified as necessary by the participants. These modules included a "porter" carrying items and a HEPA filter to monitor and purify the air.

Through the EMERGENCE network, we can step up our work with Viewpoint. With the support of multidisciplinary specialists, we will build a Hydration Station module and gain evidence of our approach's impact on the residents and carers at Viewpoint and in other care homes throughout the UK, with a particular focus on the resident's frailty