Georgia Tech’s Plans for their PR2 Robot

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There has been a lot of buzz over the past week or so highlighting Willow Garage’s PR2 Graduation, where 11 robots will be given away to to 10 universities worldwide, with the 11th going to Bosch. I’ll be highlighting them in more detail in the coming weeks and months as things develop at various locations.

One of the recipients — Georgia Tech in Atlanta — has an interdisciplinary team in place to research how robots can help older adults live independently at home. As populations of the U.S., Europe, and Japan are all getting older resulting in fewer young people to provide care to seniors, experts are concerned that costs will skyrocket and aging adults will not receive the support they need. Robots may be able to help older adults stay in their homes longer with a higher quality of life, which is Georgia Tech’s goal through their work with the PR2 they received from Willow Garage this past week.

The team plans to work with older adults to better understand their needs and how robots can help in the short and long term. By working closely with seniors throughout the research process, the team hopes to better meet real needs and accelerate progress.

To make everything more realistic, the robot will spend some of its time in a real, two-story house on the Georgia Tech campus, called the Aware Home. This will enable older adults to work with the robot in a convincing environment, and will give the software developers a good place to test their code.

The School of Psychology’s Human Factors and Aging Laboratory will be leading the human-robot interaction research part of the project. Their experience researching technology for older adults, including a recent survey on how older adults would like to use robots, will prove to be extremely useful as the project moves forward.

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