University of waterloo

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have made a breakthrough in programming robots to assist individuals with dementia in finding essential items like medication, glasses, phones, and other misplaced objects with the help of Artificial Memory.

Dr. Ali Ayub, a post-doctoral fellow in electrical and computer engineering, expressed his enthusiasm for the significant future implications of this advancement, stating that it allows users to interact with a personalized companion robot, granting them enhanced independence rather than just a regular companion robot.

Ayub and his three colleagues were deeply impacted by the alarming increase in the number of individuals grappling with dementia, a condition characterized by impaired brain function leading to confusion, memory decline, and disability. They noticed that a significant portion of these individuals frequently struggle with remembering the whereabouts of everyday items, resulting in a diminished quality of life and added challenges for their caregivers.

The engineers held the belief that a companion robot equipped with its own episodic memory could bring about a revolutionary change in such scenarios. Their efforts to utilize artificial intelligence led them to successfully develop a novel form of artificial memory. The research team began with a Fetch mobile manipulator robot, which has a camera for perceiving the world around it.

Subsequently, they employed an object-detection algorithm to program the robot, enabling it to identify, monitor, and maintain a recorded memory of particular objects within its visual range using stored video. By effectively differentiating between different objects, the robot can accurately document the date and time when objects enter or exit its field of vision.

Graphical Interface

The researchers subsequently created a user-friendly graphical interface that allows individuals to select the objects they want the robot to track. By inputting the names of the desired objects, users can then search for them using a smartphone app or computer. When prompted, the robot can provide information on the last observed time and location of the specific object.

Extensive testing has demonstrated the system’s remarkable accuracy. Although some individuals with dementia might perceive the technology as intimidating, Dr. Ayub mentioned that caregivers can easily employ and navigate it on their behalf. researchers will conduct user studies with people without disabilities, then people with dementia.

The recent 2023 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction featured a presentation on the project titled “Where is my phone? Towards the development of an episodic memory model for companion robots to track users’ important objects.”


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