ARI social robots delivered to partners to prepare for hospital use in SPRING Project

ARI and the SPRING Project

The SPRING Project has reached a key milestone, with the arrival of ARI social robots at seven project partner sites across Europe (from France, and Italy, to the UK, the Czech Republic, and Israel) in order for the partners to further develop the ARI robots ready for their deployment in a hospital environment. 

In recent years, social robots have been introduced into public spaces, for example, museums, airports, and banks. However, today’s Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) technology still needs to be further adapted to fulfil some of the more social needs. With SARs (Socially-Assistive Robots) challenges include limitations to specific scenarios. These limitations are mainly because the SARs have been designed for reactive single-user interaction. Moving past these limitations brings huge potential for Socially-Assistive Robots to help us more and more in daily life. 

SPRING is a project within the European Horizon 2020 framework that started last year and PAL Robotics is one of eight project partners. The SPRING Project aims to:

  • Enable robust robot perception in complex, unstructured and populated spaces
  • Enable sensor-based and knowledge-based robot actions for multi-modal and multi-person interaction and communication
  • Validate the technology based on the needs of gerontological healthcare (a hospital environment)

During the SPRING project, PAL Robotics has designed and manufactured seven adapted robots (our high-performance ARI social robots), as well as integrating the software developed by project partners. ARI’s tasks in the hospital environment will include welcoming patients and visitors in the waiting room, helping with check-in/out forms, assisting with medical appointments, directing patients to their appointments, and entertaining visitors.

Our social robot ARI has the abilities of face recognition, natural language processing and expressive gaze, which makes it a suitable tool for human assistance. ARI is suitable to attend to newcomers in a hospital setting and provide basic assistance, as well as give general information through speech and a tablet (used to show images). 

New to ARI? Check out how webinar on how to get started with ARI!

If you have other curiosities about ARI, read our answers to many questions about our social humanoid robot!

Find out more in the latest SPRING project video:

ARI social robot interactions with the environment and large groups of people

PAL Robotics’ CEO, Francesco Ferro said of the SPRING project, “today’s challenge is that current state-of-the-art robots cannot always fully execute social tasks because they face challenges communicating with several people at once. The SPRING project is supported by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 framework and was started with a goal of further developing Socially Assistive Robots.”

Luca Marchionni, CTO at PAL Robotics commented, “we have reached an important milestone in the project, because we have packed-up and delivered seven of our ARI robots to project partners all around Europe, where they will further develop the robots to be able to work in a hospital environment. We are very excited to see the results in the near future!”

Regarding the recent arrival of robot ARI at project partner INRIA, Xavier Alameda-Pineda, Research Scientist at INRIA and Coordinator of the SPRING project said, “to be useful in a social environment with lots of people, ARI should be capable of natural interaction and conversation. This means: understanding where people are, who is looking at whom, what are people saying, and when is the right time to join a group conversation.”

Xavier continued, “to do that, we need to fuse the information that is captured with ARI’s cameras with the sounds recorded with the robot’s microphones. Based on the fused data, we compute the position and the speech of the surrounding people and recognise the objects present in the environment. This allows us to extract behavioural cues, for instance people’s willingness to interact with ARI. Eventually, all these perception capabilities will allow ARI to naturally interact with larger groups of people.”

Xavier went on to explain further, “we have already partially achieved such abilities within the lab. We will now use the diverse expertise of the SPRING partners to further develop these skills. We will do so in a real environment, by exploiting the complementarity between vision, audio, and robot actions.”

Socially Assistive Robots contributing to a patient-friendly environment in a Paris hospital

In connection to his hopes for healthcare robotics in the future, Xavier commented, “ARI will participate in non-medical phases. For instance, interacting with patients, accompanying people and hospital staff in the waiting room of a gerontological day-care hospital. ARI will welcome people, guide them through the facilities and propose entertainment. We hope that ARI will make the patients’ experience less stressful and also facilitate the medical staff’s work to make life easier for them. In the long term, I hope that Socially Assistive Robots such as ARI will seamlessly be part of the hospital environment, and become an asset in the organisation of hospital procedures and workflow, contributing to a patient-friendly environment.”

Xavier concluded, “now that ARI is here at INRIA, we will work to enhance all the required capabilities so as to make ARI adapted to the needs of the hospital in Paris where the robot will be used in this pilot.”

Following the arrival of the ARI robots at project partner sites, partners will now continue to validate software architecture in their laboratories before starting this validation in the hospital environment. 

The partners in the SPRING Project are: Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et Automatique (INRIA) in Grenoble, France; Università Degli Studi di Trento (Unitn) in Trento, Italy;  České Vysoké Učení Technické v Praze (CVUT) in Prague, Czech Republic; Heriot-Watt University (HWU) in Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Bar Ilan University (BIU) in Ramat Gan, Israel, Erm Automatismes Industriels (ERM) in Carpentras, France; Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) in Paris, France; and PAL Robotics in Barcelona, Spain. 

To find out more about the SPRING Project visit our website. You can also read more in our previous blog post. SPRING is one of a number of EU projects that PAL Robotics is a project partner in. We also partner in additional projects in healthcare and ambient assisted living, as well as projects covering areas such as agrifood, smart cities, factories of the future, and Deep Learning. We are always on the look for new collaborations, to find out more about EU-funded projects or request information, visit PAL Robotics’ collaborative projects webpage and if you are looking for a project partner, don’t hesitate to visit our contact page to reach out to us!

If you are interested in robotics, take a look at all our other articles in our blog!

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