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Design of a Robotic Personal Assistance Tool for Elderly

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Author: Doubrovski, E.L.
Mentor: Geraedts, J.M.P. · Van de Geer, S.G. · Wisse, M.
Faculty:Industrial Design Engineering
Department:Design Engineering
Programme:Master specialisation Medisign
Type:Master thesis
Keywords: robotics · elderly · accidents · reacher · gripper
Rights: (c) 2010 Doubrovski, E.L.


The initial assignment, as formulated by the Delft Biorobotics Laboratory (DBL) for this graduation project was “Design a personal assistant robot for elderly”
During the first phase, the design directions have been explored. This was done by looking into the world of the elderly and into the world of domestic robots. The findings from this study have shown that until now, these two worlds do not match; the kind of assistance that is needed for elderly is too complex by the present-day robots to be executed. The biggest challenges lie mainly within the artificial intelligence which is not yet developed to make robots operate successfully in the unstructured domestic environments.
A striking finding during the exploration is the fact that many elderly have accidents at home caused by falling from a ladder. This problem can be addressed by the application of the DBL gripper, which, using just one motor, can grab a large variety of objects in the house. Hence, the assignment has been reformulated into “Design a Robotic Personal Assistance Tool for Elderly”.
The analysis showed that no products have been developed that specifically makes it unnecessary for people to stand on ladders. The existing reaching products are not able to grab the variety of objects that are located on high shelves. Also, the structure of the existing products leave many high places unreachable and require high force exertion of the user to lift regular objects.
During the conceptualisation and materialisation a new product has been developed. This product applies the technology of the DBL, the gripper, in a consumer product for elderly. The main issues that have been solved are; the reduction of forces on the users, make it possible to reach all necessary locations, keep the use simple, intuitive and safe. Subjects from the target group have been referred to regularly to test possible solutions for these issues. The result is a new archetype reacher of which a working prototype has been built in order to evaluate the principle. The costing calculations show that, for large series, the selling price of the product can fit in the price range of domestic appliances.