People are getting older. At the same time, they want to lead a self-determined life well into later years, preferably in their own homes. This can be achieved with the support of care robotics, which can assist people in need of care in their daily lives as well as the care personnel themselves.
The researchers agree that for care robotics to be accepted by their users, they must be developed to meet their needs. To this end, experts from the TU Wien and the University of Salzburg are joining forces with the practical partners Caritas der Archdiocese Vienna and the Technical Museum Vienna in the FWF-funded project "Caring Robots/Robotic Care".
Nursing robots were developed to relieve the burden on the nursing system. But while the technology continued to evolve and become smarter, it found little use in practice. "To change this, robotics technology should be rethought in a socio-technical context of care. In addition, to increase the acceptance of the technology, it must be useful, safe, meaningful and desirable," explains Sabine Köszegi, scientific director of the project and academic director of the MBA Innovation, Digitalization and Entrepreneurship. To achieve this, the topic will be researched in an interdisciplinary manner.
Experts from the fields of robotics, social sciences and computer science are working closely together on "Caring Robots/Robotic Care". Three institutes of the TU Wien are involved in the project: In addition to Sabine Köszegi from the Institute of Management Sciences, Margrit Gelautz and Astrid Weiss from the Institute of Visual Computing and Human-Centered Technology and Markus Vincze from the Automation and Control Institute (ACIN) are also providing their expertise. Furthermore, Christopher Frauenberger from the University of Salzburg is involved. The common goal is to develop a new, socially responsible and ethically oriented robotic care technology.
"With this Connecting Minds project, we are breaking new ground in basic research in Austria: Together with practitioners and stakeholders, we will develop innovative care robotics in an interdisciplinary research team using a participatory design approach. Our motto is: "We start from the question of what robotic technology in care should do instead of what it could do!", says Prof. Köszegi.
A daily companion
The field of application for care robots is wide-ranging and can be roughly divided into two areas: Assistance and social companionship. "A care robot can give its users a feeling of security, interact with them and fulfill their wishes, for example by playing their favorite radio station. But it can also provide support in emergency situations and call for help if the person falls or does not respond to calls from the robot," says Markus Vincze from the Automation and Control Institute at TU Wien. The idea is not to make the person in need of care feel that the robot's abilities are similar to those of a human. For example, the robot may look similar to a human, but the visible technology makes it clear that it is a machine that performs defined tasks.
The consortium is evaluating exactly what a care robot looks like - both technically and visually - that meets the requirements of its users as part of the project, which will start in March 2022. Thus, by the end of the project, there should be a prototype that has already been tested in real environments of stationary and mobile long-term care.
"Caring Robots/Robotic Care" is one of five #ConnectingMinds projects funded by the FWF over a period of five years. What connects the projects is that solutions to societal problems are explored by science and practice working closely together. "With #ConnectingMinds, we encourage researchers to work particularly closely with experts from the field to advance social innovations. The positive response shows the willingness of many organizations to get involved. Collaboration is creating a new research culture with particularly good chances of producing results that improve all of our lives," said Christof Gattringer, President of the FWF.
Prof. Dr. Sabine Köszegi
Research unit Labor Science & Organization
+43 1 58801 33071
Text: Sarah Link (TU Wien - PR and Marketing)