The National Robotarium, delivered by Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, has partnered with Leuchie House to trial technologies that could help people with assisted living needs and those who care for them gain greater independence.
One million people in Scotland live with a neurological condition, and 10% are disabled as a result. For many, both professional and unpaid carers provide essential support at home to carry out daily tasks and enable access to leisure activities that support wellbeing. However, emerging technologies have been shown to help return independence.
Announced on the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December 2021), the partnership will see researchers from the National Robotarium's Assisted Living Lab collaborate with guests at Leuchie House to develop robotics and AI technologies that address specific needs.
Examples include providing support after a stroke and monitoring for deterioration in conditions such as dementia. By combining sensor technology and robotics, data can be collected over longer periods of time, helping to monitor patients and alert carers to when a care package may need to be reviewed.
The National Robotarium, a partnership between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, is part of the Data-Driven Innovation initiative and is supported by £21 million from the UK Government and £1.4 million from the Scottish Government through the £1.3 billion Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal - a 15 year investment programme jointly funded by both governments and regional partners.
Professor Lynne Baillie, Head of the Assisted Living Lab at the National Robotarium said, “Our partnership with Leuchie House will allow us to work collaboratively with their guests and carers to develop assisted living technology that truly works for users. We will engage directly with individuals to learn more about their unique needs and hear their ideas about how robotic and sensing technologies could provide support.
“Guests will then be invited to our Assisted Living Lab at the National Robotarium to participate in trials of technologies designed to meet these needs in a realistic home setting.”
UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:
"The innovative use of robots in social care has the potential to improve people's lives and help them to live independently. I welcome the National Robotarium's partnership with Leuchie House and look forward to seeing its progress.
"The UK Government is investing £21 million in the National Robotarium as part of £1.7 billion for projects to level-up communities in every part of Scotland."
Leuchie House is a national charity dedicated to supporting people living with the long-term effects of a range of neurological conditions such as MS, Parkinson's, MND and stroke, through individualised short respite breaks, as well as an essential break for their carers.
Mark Bevan, CEO at Leuchie House said, “Leuchie House is traditionally known for our class leading residential short breaks and, building from this strength, we have been introducing guests and those who care for them to the benefits of enabling technology, which can restore independence and self-management. Our rooms for example are equipped with voice activated environmental controls, to show our guests the art of the possible.
“Our Technology team works with guests to install similar technologies at home, giving them and those who care for them more independence and complementing residential short breaks. This exciting partnership between the National Respite Centre and the National Robotarium is a further example of how we can build on the past and re-imagine respite for the future. It is a key part of our creation of a new National Centre for Enabling Technology.”
Examples of tasks technology can support users to complete include opening doors, switching lights on and off, watching TV, listening to the radio and making phone calls.
There are 1.1 million unpaid carers in Scotland, and one in five carers report not having had a break in over five years. Through assisted living technology, not only can individuals with disabilities gain greater independence, but carers can benefit from greater support.
The National Robotarium works with industry and societal partners to develop solutions to global challenges using robotics and AI. Current collaborations in the health and social care sector include a research project with Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland to explore how robots could assist stroke survivors in their daily lives.
By working in collaboration with guests, carers and families at Leuchie House, it is hoped the technology developed at the National Robotarium could support individuals not only at the centre, but across Scotland, the UK and beyond.