Spotlight on telepresence and teleoperation in healthcare robotics

ARI & TIAGo telepresence and teleoperation

Telepresence uses technology that allows a person to feel as if they were present at a location different from their true location, and to interact in that space. Telepresence has brought enhanced communication to many different scenarios through the increased growth of 4G and 5G making stable audio-visual data transmission easier. Teleoperation refers to the remote control of a mechanical device from a distance. Telepresence and teleoperation in robotics have multiple use cases – including in healthcare, Ambient Assisted Living, in education, and at events. At PAL Robotics, we have partnered in a number of collaborative projects that include telepresence and teleoperation to help users in their daily lives – particularly in healthcare.

Telepresence and teleoperation benefits in healthcare including evaluating well-being and delivering caregiver messages

Telepresence and teleoperation in robotics bring multiple benefits to healthcare. Here are some examples:

  • Through telepresence, healthcare providers can evaluate certain aspects of the user’s well-being without having to physically move to where they are – this is especially useful for older adults that live by themselves and are not close to healthcare centres.
  • When monitoring the health of users, if requested at home, the robot sends alerts to caregivers. Caregivers are able to then detect any possible anomalies and double-check the status of these.
  • Through teleoperation, healthcare providers can control the robot’s movements and move the robot manually if they consider a situation potentially hazardous, or trigger robot speech to deliver caregiver messages and instructions to users. 

Telepresence in project SHAPES for virtually connecting with caregivers, friends & family and providing user health information

A specific use case is project SHAPES which PAL Robotics recently partnered in with social robot ARI. EU Project SHAPES aimed to facilitate the use of robotics in Ambient Assisted Living, to help users with reduced physical or mental capabilities in their daily lives at home, and in care homes.

In project pilots in users’ homes, the touchscreen on PAL Robotics’ ARI’s torso enabled the robot to function as a telepresence robot, which users could use to communicate remotely – contacting friends, family, and caregivers through the touchscreen.

At the same time, caregivers were able to see, interact and support users remotely, and virtually connect them with medical providers. ARI could also update caregivers on the patient’s health and alert them if necessary. By deploying human activity recognition algorithms and thanks to its cameras, ARI could be adapted to detect falls or other house hazards and raise the alarm. During the project, ARI was also designed to approach users if they appeared to be physically or mentally inactive for some time.

In a healthcare context, ARI is suitable for monitoring in the home in a care context, and is able to collect physiological data as needed from wireless temperature or pulse oximeter sensors. The data from these devices can be collected by ARI using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and, alongside other data collected through interaction (game progress, etc) resent to a cloud server in order to apply deep learning algorithms that may be used to detect abnormalities and improve early diagnosis if required. ARI also enables interconnection with smart devices, wearable sensors, mobile phones and other Ambient Assisted Living applications.

Teleoperation in project SANDRo 2 for support as a personal assistant and activity counsellor

Another use case is project SANDRo 2 which PAL Robotics was recently a project partner in. SANDRo stands for (Semi-Autonomous Night and Day Robot) and through PAL Robotics’ TIAGo robot provided assistive services to people with difficulties in Activities of Daily Living (ADL). In project pilots, TIAGo formed the base of the SANDRo solution to support users. The project conducted trials in several care centres across Europe.

During the project, tasks could be requested by care workers or end users – for example, the patient could call the robot to his/her room, or a nurse could request support. Examples of such tasks were: picking objects from the floor, fetching and bringing household items, setting the table for lunch, transferring medical equipment, and bringing a glass of water, or medication.

The SANDRo robot could be tele-operated by a remote operator when needed (e.g. on-call or when an alert is triggered). This operator, located in a support centre, could communicate with users through voice and video, which enabled safe and detailed remote visual inspection. Once the action was defined, the operator used a specialised cockpit interface with integrated haptic feedback, so the operator could feel the forces that were applied and accurately operate the robot and its arm. This made it possible to conduct special tasks such as picking up things from the ground (it would take more time to call a care professional to solve this situation) or more complex tasks such as putting a mug or plate in a drawer, and performing close up wound inspection via the wrist camera.

In project SANDRo 2, the Activity Counsellor role of the robot also includes skype-like communication with remote consultants or care professionals, relatives, and family members. 

Teleoperation guarantees the safe and successful execution of more complex Activities of Daily Living (ADL) tasks. A human operator involved is the key to making a service robot more robust and efficient in the execution of practical tasks, using human judgement, sensor, and motor skills interactively. Especially in care environments, where situations are unpredictable and variable, a semi-autonomous approach helps to provide a reliable and robust service system.

ARI the social and collaborative robot

ARI is a high-performance social robotic platform designed for a wide range of multimodal expressive gestures and behaviours. ARI is suitable for HRI (Human-Robot Interaction), perception, cognition, and navigation. The robot’s behaviour can be customised using the provided, easy-to-use, web interface – it’s easy to develop, simulate and deploy applications on the robot. 

TIAGo the mobile manipulator robot

TIAGo robot combines perception, navigation, manipulation, and Human-Robot Interaction skills out of the box. TIAGo the mobile manipulator robot is customisable and is available with single and dual arms, and is able to support a wide variety of end effectors (grippers or hands). The robot is one of the most popular research platforms for universities and institutions across Europe and is also the robot of choice in numerous EU-funded projects. 

At PAL Robotics we partner in a number of collaborative projects in healthcare and Ambient Assisted Living, as well as projects covering areas such as agri-food, smart cities, factories of the future, Artificial Intelligence, and Industry 4.0 and 5.0. We are always on the lookout for new collaborations, to find out more about EU-funded projects or request information, visit PAL Robotics’ collaborative projects webpage and don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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