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Companion Robots Will Improve Elderly People's Quality of Life in Smart Homes

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The Companionable project is working to improve the quality of life of elderly and disabled people through robots designed to operate in intelligent homes. The project, part of the European Union 7th Framework Program, combines the use of robots in intelligent domestic environments with the objective of creating a companion capable of assisting people in their own homes and helping them live independent lives. The project is developing a tool that will provide recognition of emotional states, social and health services support, and videoconferencing with family members and professional healthcare providers.

Companionable is primarily focusing on the development of technologies to create a system that is conscious of its surroundings and aware when a person is in its presence, using a network of sensors and communications, as well as the development and design of a mobile robot for therapeutic treatment and care support. The system will use several types of sensors, such as vision, sound, and distance measurement, to detect and monitor anyone nearby, and will be capable of recognizing the person's emotional state as well as normal or unusual behavior. Companionable partners are exploring techniques for the interaction that will occur between the person and the robot, including the adaptation of existing portable sensors to identify the user's state of health, designing protocols for communications, data gathering, and signal analysis, and developing interfaces for external caregivers and technical service providers. The robot will feature a touch screen with an avatar-like robot face, designed to facilitate interaction.

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