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Phone? Keys? Wallet? Canadian engineers develop robots to help people with dementia find missing items




Engineers at the University of Waterloo are using robots to locate medicine, phones, glasses, and other missing items for those with dementia.

The engineers described their findings in a paper presented at the 2023 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction in March. They say assistive robots could help track and locate misplaced items using artificial memory derived from artificial intelligence.

Their robot, called the Fetch mobile manipulator robot, has a camera to see its surroundings, and the engineers programmed an object-detection algorithm into it to detect, track, and keep a memory log of specific objects within its camera view through stored video.

The robot would differentiate items from one another and record the time and date items would enter or leave its view.

Users can also program which items they want tracked through a graphical user interface that allows them to type the items’ names and search on a smartphone app or computer. The robot then registers the item and outputs when and where it last saw the desired item.

“The long-term impact of this is really exciting,” said Dr. Ali Ayub, an electrical and computer engineering post-doctoral fellow said in a news release last week. “A user can be involved not just with a companion robot but a personalized companion robot that can give them more independence.”

People diagnosed with dementia experience a condition that limits their brain function resulting in memory loss, confusion, and disability.

Ayub says that while some individuals with dementia may find this technology “daunting,” caregivers can put it to use.

Researchers will further explore the study on people without disabilities before testing on people with dementia.

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