Companion Robotics

Name: Claire Huijnen, MSc, MTD, Stichting Smart Homes

Stichting Smart Homes is the Dutch Expertise centre on Smart Homes and Smart Living and participates in two European (FP7) projects on companion robotics; CompanionAble and Mobiserv.

There are widely acknowledged imperatives for helping the elderly live at home (semi)-independently for as long as possible by means of AAL technology. CompanionAble and Mobiserv provide the synergy of Robotics and Ambient Intelligence technologies and their semantic integration to provide for a care-giver’s assistive environment. Homes become attentive and responsive to its inhabitants and collaborate with robots to assist people in their daily lives. These projects aim to use best of both worlds of smart homes and robotics. Using a robot that ‘talks’ and understands you when you speak seem more motivating, engaging and fun to use than a tablet screen on the wall. It seems a bit peculiar to get medicines reminders from your home, whereas when a robot would remind you this might be different. The robot could be used as an intermediary between the smart home and the inhabitant. With embodiment, interaction possibilities and maybe even an own character as important properties.

The unique characteristics of robotics offer promising opportunities to support people but ask for careful attention on social and ethical dimensions as well. The goal is to increase people’s independence when living at home, so we should be sensitive to how we should design the robot, the applications and the entire interaction. People should not become dependent on the system. It is tempting to tell the user where his glasses are located when he is looking for them, or to let the robot bring them to the user, but it might be that there are other ways to give support that trigger people to become more active themselves. Using a program for memory training might be an completely different experience when performed on a tablet screen, the television or on the robot. The intention is that the system is there to support and to keep an eye on you. This presentation will guide you through some of the highlights of both projects and present key points on the integration of companion robotics and smart homes in the journey towards achieving companionship and assisted living. What are drivers and barriers towards companion robotics? What makes a companion a companion? What social and ethical considerations do we need to be sensitive to?

More information and a short movie about CompanionAble can be found at:

More information and a short movie about Mobiserv can be found at: