Bristol Robotics Laboratory is part of the Long Term Care Revolution

Issue date: 03 June 2014


The Robotic Ambient Assisted Living Studio

According to a population projection by the UK National Statistics Office, the numbers of 65+ will rise to over 16 million in the next 20 years. A recent Department for Business Innovation and Skills Report , states that up to 75% of people above the age of 75 will suffer from chronic disease by 2030. Many people want to stay in their own homes as they age, however lack of adequate support can be a barrier to this. Creative, affordable and pragmatic solutions are needed, and there is potential for intelligent technologies to support independent living in later life.

Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), a collaboration between UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol is pleased to announce that it is part of the Connecting Assistive Solutions to Aspirations (CASA) project, one of six business-led projects to emerge from the Long Term Care Revolution, a funding competition, funded through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) scheme, which connects public sector challenges with innovative ideas from academia and industry.

CASA is a nine-month pilot project funded by the UK's innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board. The project aims to develop personalised packages of innovative products and services to help people maintain enjoyable, independent lives in later life.

It brings together a multidisciplinary consortium which includes Leone Services Ltd as project lead, together with University of Nottingham, Sensixa, an Imperial College spin out, and Swiss Cottage School, London.

Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly (Principal Investigator) and Dr Amalia Tsanaka (Research Associate) from BRL are providing expertise in the area of User Experience Design and Human-Technology Interaction. Dr Glenn Parry (Co-Investigator) from Bristol Business School will also provide consultancy on exploring new financial models that will enable equitable access to products and services.

Intelligent technologies such as service robots and smart, connected products have a tremendous potential for making a real difference in helping people lead healthy and independent lives in their own homes. However in order to ensure successful deployment and effectiveness of these technologies, taking a person-centred approach, where consideration of the user-experience is the driving factor, is paramount.

In this project, researchers are working with older people, young adults with learning difficulties, and dementia and care experts, to co-design products and services that best fit with desired lifestyles.

Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly, theme leader for Assisted Living in the BRL explains, “From the interviews we've conducted so far we know that while some of the older generation are thriving, engaging with the community and enjoying activities such as sports and gardening, there are some who would benefit from a lot more opportunities for social engagement and personalised technology than are currently available.

“In this project we want to show how the role of technology is changing, moving on from just meeting a need to focusing on how it can help us achieve our aspirations.

“We know that staying active in later life helps to keep us mentally happier, so it's important that we understand the challenges faced to get it right with the products and services we design to enable people to maintain and enjoy an active lifestyle. The CASA service will be tailored to the individual and will explore holistic solutions, for example, someone wanting to continue with a gardening interest might need adapted gardening tools to reflect physical changes, mobile medication reminders when they are out of the house or a fall detector and easy access to emergency support, or a social solution of matching them up with a gardening buddy to provide companionship, found via an internet service. Smart technology is also being developed to understand an individual's routine so if there's a change, an indication that something could be wrong, the technology and support could be pro-actively adapted. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to be part of the Long Term Care Revolution.”

The researchers would like to invite more people aged 65 or older to participate in the research project, particularly those who feel that they are not living life as they would really like to.

Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly concludes, “Participants can share their views with us either by questionnaire, interview or participating in co-design workshops. We want to investigate how best to bring together existing and new technologies, working out how they might better fit with people's homes and surroundings, social activities and desired lifestyles, to produce affordable, useful and attractive products and services.

In the next phase of the project, CASA will be seeking further funding to develop the technologies that have emerged from the consultation. With a background in intelligent technologies such as assistive robots and adaptive learning systems, BRL will play an instrumental role. Professor Chris Melhuish, Director of the BRL, sees assisted living as a significant application sector for future robotics. The multidisciplinary nature of research in the BRL makes it well placed for developing this area.

If you are interested in participating in the research being conducted at UWE Bristol please contact Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly (praminda.caleb-solly@uwe.ac.uk).

For further information about project please contact the project lead Alexandra Eavis (e-mail alexandra.eavis@thisiscasa.com).

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