About Bobbie Robotics
The ageing population will be putting increasingly great pressure on the health care system. The continuing trend of ageing will clearly increase the difficulty to provide care to acceptable standards.
The type of elderly care most needed yet least provided by overloaded care professionals is (non-critical) assistance in daily living: fetching objects, opening/closing doors and drawers, operating switches, etcetera.
Thanks to recent advances in robotics and mechatronics, computing, vision and software, it is now starting to become possible to create robotic versions of so-called care dogs. In the Netherlands, all key technologies for these personal robots are available, but they have not been brought together in an economically viable industry.
The overall goal of the Bobbie project is to bootstrap a Dutch industry for personal robots for the elderly care by addressing the prerequisites mentioned above. Because of the functional resemblance to assistance dogs, we refer to the care assistance robots as a “Bobbie”, from the (Dutch) name of the helpful dog of “Kuifje” (Tintin).
Project targets and opportunities
This project will result in new methods to design a robot system, using standardized architectures, which can safely work in a care situation. As a proof of these methods, a specific realization in the form of a safely working prototype will be shown as an end result.
These types of personal robots are expected to become a market with a similar influence as the personal computer market. Comparing the two markets, we are now in the era before the design of the IBM standard PC architecture. There are very few personal robotic systems on the market, they are expensive, and components are not interchangeable. Identical to how the IBM architecture revolutionized the PC market, the creation of design standards for personal robots will open up the great potential of the personal robotics market, and the Dutch Industry can play a key role.
A standardized personal robotic market does not start automatically; it requires a bootstrap because three conditions have to be met simultaneously:
- standards must exist and be agreed upon,
- the industry must be convinced that it is possible,
- the market must be convinced that it is applicable.
The key strengths towards achieving this are a large number of technological innovations recently developed in The Netherlands, which will combine into a system with the required capabilities. The hardware components (lightweight arm at the 3TU’s, adaptive hand by Lacquey, mobile platforms by TU/e and Fontys, expressive head by Demcon and University of Twente) will be combined with software algorithms and knowledge already available in the technical universities and partners (e.g. recognition algorithm from PRSD).
We strongly emphasize that Bobbie will be the first of a series of required developments by the Dutch industries and Knowledge Institutes in a close co-operation, to come to a commercial viable industry with a global impact. In this respect we foresee more PointOne and PiD project proposals in the near future for next generation robotic CARE products, building on the shared knowledge and consortium base, as founded in this Bobbie project.