Developed by Dr. Maja J. Mataric, professor and senior associate dean at the University of Southern California, the robot is designed to assist older people in exercises, either as part of a daily routine or rehabilitation. Unlike previous robotic technologies, the robot is socially interactive, and is able to detect and respond to a person's emotion or physical movements.
Dr. Maratic says:
Our goal is to develop friendly, intelligent robots that fill the roles of a buddy and a coach, in order to both inspire and motivate people to exercise regularly in their homes, since social exercise is more enjoyable and supervised exercise is more effective. Socially assistive robots can be customized to fit the user's personality, exercise preferences, and interaction styles. For example, the robot may be pushy or nurturing as a coach, and can even use an appropriate type of joke as a buddy.
To see the robot in action and to get a sense of its buddy-like personality its definitely worth checking out their video:
In recognition of its developments in robot technology, the Vertebri School of Engineering has recently received a PR2 robotic prototype platform from Willow Garage, a group of robotic hardware and software researchers based in Menlo Park, California, to help further the school's research and help create new ways in which robots can seamlessly integrate and function into human society.
The Social Assistive robot is just one of the technologies being displayed in the 2,500-square-foot Idea house designed to illustrate how technology and design can be integrated to facilitate aging in place and continued participation in the community. The house is open to the public during the AAHSA Annual Meeting & Exposition at the Los Angeles Convention Center from October 31 - November 3.