iWalk: Intelligent Robotic Walker for mobility and cognitive assistance of elderly and motor-impaired people

Start Date: 09/07/2018
End Date: 08/01/2022
Funding: Operational Programme «Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship» 2014-2020
Project Leader: Fotinea Stavroula-Evita
Website: http://www.i-walk.gr/

One of the greatest challenges that the modern developed societies are facing, is the rapid change in demographic data associated with the aging of their populations. A direct consequence is the increase of the population percentage that faces different degrees of mobility and cognitive problems apart from those caused by chronic related diseases and/or accidents. The i-Walk project aims at developing and testing a new pioneering robotic system that will provide a range of mobility and cognitive support functions for people belonging to the aforementioned population groups. It will be a flexible platform of robotic technologies adapted on a rollator walker aiming to provide active assistance and with the ability to acquire knowledge and adapt to the environment, personalized to each individual user, in order to support mobility and enhance health and vitality. In this project, the following methodologies will be developed and synergistically utilized: (a) processing of multi-sensory and physiological signals and identification of actions for the monitoring, analysis and prediction of human gait and other actions of the user, (b) behavioral and user-adaptive robot control and autonomous robot navigation for the dynamic approach of the user and the interactive co-occurrence combined also with voice guidance; (c) human-robot communication, including speech synthesis and recognition technologies and a virtual assistant (avatar) to enhance the naturalness of communication. Building on the know-how acquired by three of the four partners in a previous European project (MOBOT), the i-Walk project will further research the enhancement of these technologies, their application to meet major social needs, and the exploration of the economic and commercial exploitation of the results. There will be a synergy of the technological achievements with medical services that concern rehabilitation, aiming at interacting with target populations (patients) in order to design and integrate systems based on the needs of potential users. The i-Walk project envisions the development of two versions: (1) a fully-equipped system featuring a complete range of sensors adapted to a new robotic frame incorporating modern actuated devices with autonomous navigation capabilities; (2) a lightweight system incorporating a subset of the sensory devices into subsystems that could easily and cheaply be adapted to existing wheeled walker types of mobility aids. The first edition will be applied in clinical environments as an integrated system for the mobile rehabilitation process of the patient but also for the clinical evaluation of its course based on objective quantitative indicators. The second version may find an even wider range of applications for in-house continuous rehabilitation and monitoring of the recovery evolution of the patient. Overall, the i-Walk project aims to support elderly people and patients with mobile and/or cognitive inabilities, by achieving (a) their more effective mobilization in the clinical environment of a rehabilitation center, reducing the burden on clinical staff and increasing the efficiency of rehabilitation programs, and (b) their continuous support at home through technologies monitoring their progress, but also their mobilization through interfaces of cognitive and other support, increasing their degree of independence and improving their quality of life. In addition to the powerful social impact that the i-Walk is expected to have, the variety of assistive functions it will provide and the breadth of their applications seem to open a horizon to a potentially large market with significant economic benefits from the commercial exploitation that will follow.