Geckosystems to begin in home elder care robot trials

Conyers 25 November 2009GeckoSystems International Corporation has started limited in home evaluation trials for its first product, a personal companion home care robot, the CareBot. GeckoSystems is a dynamic expert in the emerging Mobile Service Robot (MSR) industry revolutionizing their development and usage with "Mobile Robot Solutions for Safety, Security and Service". A first tier contract manufacturer - after viewing numerous demonstrations, examining and discussing GeckoSystems' CareBot - is confident that within six months they could produce GeckoSystems' CareBot at the rate of one thousand per month.

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"Practical, cost-effective mobile robot solutions are our primary goal. We are very pleased to begin our first in home trials of this new assistive care home appliance, a customizable personal companion robot. Now we begin proving our long held belief that personal companion mobile robots, like the CareBot, can help tens of thousands of families take better care of their loved ones while saving significant monies", remarked Martin Spencer, President/CEO, GeckoSystems.

"Further, due to our international competition from the Pacific Rim, Europe, and domestic competition in the United States, we are gratified to make this 'world's first' announcement. With these in home trials now initiated, we expect to learn a great deal as to the reality of social interaction between human and robot in home settings", predicted Martin Spencer.

"In the near future, as we progress with our in home personal companion robot evaluation trials, we will be reporting on the social interaction responses of the care receiver - and the care giver - to this new type of in home medical monitoring system", observed Martin Spencer.

Recently, Dr. Neta Ezer of Georgia Tech released a white paper entitled: "More Than a Servant: Self-Reported Willingness of Younger and Older Adults to Having a Robot Perform Interactive and Critical Tasks in the Home" published in the Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 53rd Annual Meeting. Amongst several observations, they concluded that the elderly are surprisingly receptive to robotic assistive care.

"We applaud Dr. Ezer's insightful work even though it only addresses potential benefits to the care receiver, and not the care giver(s). In many instances the family of the care receiver may benefit as much, or more, than the care receiver according to our market research. We are excited about going into real world, in home evaluation trials to learn first hand what the elderly like, and/or dislike about a robotic companion sharing the same living space with them", concluded Martin Spencer.

The elderly frequently endure loneliness and/or loss of independence when living in nursing homes or other assisted living facilities. This new type of remote medical monitoring system, a CareBot, will postpone, if not eliminate that trauma to them. Their families can now better manage the difficult decisions regarding the independence they allow their now dependent parent while minimizing the risk the adult care giver is willing to assume for a prudent level of independence for their now reliant parent.

Some believe that the technology is approved and paid for through options such as the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, which broadens the definition, use, and funding of technology at home. Other sources include long-term care insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, Medicaid waivers, and (potentially) stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, under the provisions for health information technology and electronic medical records for acute care.

Like an automobile, mobile robots are made from steel, aluminum, plastic, and electronics, but with ten to twenty times the amount of software running. The CareBot has an aluminum frame, plastic shroud, two independently driven wheels, multiple sensor systems, microprocessors and several onboard computers connected in a local area network (LAN). The microprocessors directly interact with the sensor systems and transmit data to the onboard computers.

The onboard computers each run independent, highly specialized co-operative/subsumptive artificial intelligence (AI) software programmes, GeckoSavants, which interact to complete tasks in a timely, intelligent and common sense manner. GeckoNav, GeckoChat and GeckoTrak are primary GeckoSavants. GeckoNav is responsible for manoeuvering, avoiding dynamic and/or static obstacles, seeking waypoints and patrolling. GeckoChat is responsible for interaction with the care-receiver such as answering questions, assisting with daily routines and reminders, and responding to other verbal commands. GeckoTrak, which is mostly transparent to the user, enables the CareBot to maintain proximity to the care-receiver using sensor fusion. The CareBot is an internet appliance that is accessible for remote video/audio monitoring and telepresence.

The known competitive product offerings, or in development include, but are not limited to:

  • In Asia: Honda (ASIMO), Toyota (Partner Robots), Fujitsu (Frontech's enon), Sanyo (FLATTHRU), NEC (PaPeRo), Toshiba (ApriAlpha, ApriAttenda), Samsung, Hitachi (EMIEW), Matsushita (HOSPI), Mitsubishi (Wakamaru), etc.
  • In Europe: Robosoft (robuLAB10), Robowatch, Dyson, Husqvarna, etc. are working to achieve their first personal robot trials, too.
  • In the United States: iRobot (CiCi), Mobile Robots (PeopleBot), RoboDynamics (MILO), Evolution Robotics, etc. are also still seeking to develop viable, cost effective personal companion robots with elder care benefits.

Prestigious United States universities such as MIT, Georgia Tech, Stanford University, Univerity of California at Los Angeles, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Michigan, Virginia Tech, etc. are but a few of the domestic engineering schools engaged in personal companion robot research and development activities.

None of the foregoing have initiated in home evaluation trials of their personal companion home care mobile robots. On the contrary, during the first week of real world evaluation trials, for the fully autonomous personal companion home care robot, the CareBot, GeckoSystems has learned some surprising and some, not surprising, insights.

"During this first week we have learned some important, but seemingly simple insights, such as the appropriate voice synthesis characteristics needed by the elderly with hearing loss, for example. This has been an important insight as we integrate our CareBot into the home environment. We have been using the end user interface to customize the voice reproduction (synthesis) in our verbal interaction software, GeckoChat, such that the care receiver can readily understand timely (using GeckoScheduler) verbal reminders for their medications, upcoming TV shows, family visits, etc. Now we begin proving our long held belief that personal companion mobile robots, like the CareBot, can help tens of thousands of families take better care of their loved ones while saving significant monies", remarked Martin Spencer, President/CEO, GeckoSystems.

"We have worked for some years to develop the ability for our CareBot MSR's to intelligently listen and respond to spoken commands of the caregiver and/or care receiver as we have learned in our extensive market research (focus group) work. GeckoChat can be readily customized for words, phrases and sentences to be recognized by the care receiver and appropriate, desirable responses by the family", observed Martin Spencer.

"We developed the CareBot primarily for family care. Hence a simple and intuitive user interface is extremely important. This pushed us into developing verbal interaction functionality using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies several years ago", stated Mark Peele, Vice President, R&D, GeckoSystems.

While personal robots cannot reliably sense and respond to human emotions, due to the many different means available to the end user, CareBot persona can be easily customized as to voice tonality, cadence, pitch, breathiness, volume, choice of words, etc. Further, the words and/or phrases chosen in response to anticipated questions to the CareBot can be colloquial in the word choice and approximate the native dialect using various user settings in the software and/or hardware. With the foregoing capabilities there is now a new type of surrogate companion, not only for the elderly, but also other family members such as children and/or the chronically ill.

"GeckoChat continues the suite of our fundamental GeckoSavants with the disparate, functional benefits needed to cost-effectively provide utility to families for remote care taking of their members and other loved ones by making them more personal and uniquely adapted and addressed to the particular person to be assisted. Not only does this capability enable new forms of social interaction and community for families - even when dispersed geographically, it will also increase ROI for our investors", remarked Martin Spencer.

"With these in home trials continue to progress nicely with no unforeseen 'gotcha's', we have already learned a great deal as to the reality of beneficial social interaction between human and robot in domestic settings and its very important potential positive impact on the internal dynamics of the extended family using a CareBot to communicate their desire to cherish, honour and watch over their neediest family members", concluded Martin Spencer.

Since 1997, GeckoSystems has developed a comprehensive, coherent, and sufficient suite of hardware and software inventions to enable a new type of home appliance - a personal companion robot - the CareBot, to be created for the mass consumer marketplace. The suite of primary inventions includes: GeckoNav, GeckoChat and GeckoTrak.

The primary market for this product is the family for use in elder care, care for the chronically ill, and child care. The primary distribution channel for this new home appliance is the thousands of independent personal computer retailers in the United States. The manufacturing infrastructure for this new product category of mobile service robots is essentially the same as the personal computer industry. Several outside contract manufacturers have been identified and qualified their ability to produce up to 1000 CareBots per month within four to six months.

By the end of this year, the company plans to complete productization of its CareBot offering with the introduction of its fourth generation personal robot, the CareBot 4.0 MSR. The company is the first personal robot developer and manufacturer in the world to begin in-home elder care evaluation trials. More company news is available in the VMW September 2009 article GeckoSystems expects new Medicare/Medicaid payments to increase personal robot demand.


Source: GeckoSystems

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