A RECORD NUMBER of visitors (over 500 people) came to IKDC, the Ingvar Kamprad Design Centre, on 23 October to experience Certec Informs. These information days have developed into a kind of fair for aids in healthcare and for the disabled, attracting many recreation- and nursing employees.
In order to get in to Håkan Eftring’s lecture on how a robot named Hobbit can help to care for the elderly, you had to elbow your way in and fi nd a space to sit on the fl oor. The small auditorium was packed. But then Håkan’s project is also well known from the TV programme Rapport in May, among others.
Now he was able to talk in greater detail about the robot that he and other LTH researchers are developing and testing. A major EU project is behind this work, coordinated by the Vienna University of Technology. A couple of European companies, a research institute and an organisation for the elderly are also taking part. The robot is called Hobbit.
The second prototype of this robot is to be tested next autumn and winter at LTH, among other venues. The finalised robot will cost around SEK 100 000 and may be available for rent by clients who are uncertain about purchasing it. It is to be possible both to speak to the robot and to control it through gestures or via a display.
The robot can carry out small services, such as looking for and picking up items like spectacles that you are unable to fi nd, or fetching your medicine. It can raise the alarm if its owner falls or has disappeared. It can offer small surprises like playing a little music, reading aloud from a book or showing a fi lm. The fi rst prototype could show some facial expressions, such as sleepiness, joy or a questioning look.
The user can speak to the robot or show on a display what he or she needs help with. People who have tested the robot have answered questions about it and many found it to be usable and relatively easy to instruct, although many added “perhaps not for me, but I can think of others who could make good use of it”.
Susanne Frennert works half time as a doctoral student on the project and half time on another robot project. In the spring, around 20 volunteers tested the robot in Lund. The robot is not to be considered as a replacement for human care but rather as a complement, which can be present in the home on a 24-hour basis and perhaps allow the elderly to remain in their own homes for a little longer.
In another room, the audience listened to Charlotte Magnusson, who spoke about her navigation projects. With a smartphone equipped with GPS in one hand, people with memory problems can get help finding their way home by following an arrow (NavMem project) – or walking a pre-set circuit. Children with disabilities which tend to keep them sitting indoors can – in another project – be lured outside to go on a treasure hunt.
Gustav Knape, a newly qualified engineer in technical design, spoke about his degree project which dealt with the 3D printer as an educational aid for teaching the visually impaired. With today’s relatively cheap 3D printers and the many opportunities to exploit existing models or to create one’s own, for example by 3D scanning objects, there is plenty of potential in this area. Gustav and his supervisor Kirsten Rassmus-Gröhn showed connectable atom models, a globe, maps in relief, planet models, scale models for mathematics and much more. There are many existing models available but they are hard to find, so a good database is needed.
TEXT AND PHOTOS: MATS NYGREN