We want to build a truly empathic robot that will help older people remain healthy. We will develop an AI-driven personalized wellbeing program that will enhance the capabilities of the Buddy robot. Buddy is a friendly emotional personal robot that can watch over elder users and help with daily activities. In order to be a real companion, Buddy must also understand the user. This means the Buddy will be updated to enable computer vision analysis to analyze emotions and physiological signals from the face, body, and voice. Learning these important emotional signals can help integrate a successful health coaching program.

By 2025, 22% of the world population may be older than 60. Aging can be associated with phenomena such as loneliness, pain, reduced mobility, and increasing number of comorbidities. This variety of changes can lead to a lack of positive affect and loss of motivation, in 18-36% of older European adults even resulting in late life depression. The likelihood of these negative effects can be reduced with life-style interventions that promote an active, positive, and social life. There are many lifestyle interventions that help with staying healthy, however, lack of motivation and lack of coaching is a key issue. The goal of this project is to provide older users (and their caregivers) with a robotic companion running the latest AI technology that will help lift their spirits and make doing a healthy activity more fun. This way older people can stay healthier and stay at home longer. This current global aging population makes solutions like these a necessity.

The evidence from recent literature reviews (assessing 13-19 studies with a total over 1000 participants) regarding the impact of social robotics for elderly people in relation to psychological wellbeing is encouraging. The benefit can be extended by a robot delivering advice for a healthy lifestyle in a personalized way. In order to do this it is important that the robot can truly understand the emotion and motivation of the user, to structure the interactions accordingly. The main result of the project will be an enhanced Buddy robot with stronger hardware and improved functionalities, embedded with FaceReader multimodal emotion and physiological assessment, monitoring health related indices and delivering just-in-time adaptive lifestyle interventions based on behavior change theory, implemented in a 24h support platform. The market of personal robots is increasing but there currently is not a robot on the market that integrates complex emotional interactions and can really be a companion in someone’s home.

Salzburg Research will integrate ROS and meaningful ontologies on the Buddy robot and support the design of empathic responses and language processing. Furthermore, we will select and adapt suitable (just-in-time adaptive) interventions for the use cases and lead the user research work package.

How to find us
Salzburg Research Forschungsgesellschaft
Jakob Haringer Straße 5/3
5020 Salzburg, Austria