Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University is developing an intelligent home-care robot called ROLA (Robot Of Living Aid) that can understand Mandarin, Taiwanese, and some English. The robot keeps a watchful eye on the elderly occupants of a home and, should an accident happen, will automatically send distress calls and photos to the family’s cell phones and call for an ambulance. Thanks to its live video feed, false alarms can also be avoided. ROLA uses speech recognition for its natural language communication needs. The robot picks up its owner’s commands and uses face recognition to track and monitor the individual, using its built-in laser range finder to autonomously avoid household furniture and other potential collisions.
The system includes a wearable real-time human identification rig which helps track down the location of an individual but which could also monitor and transmit various physiological signals to the robot. The robot would automatically notify family and physicians should abnormal conditions arise.
ROLA could patrol hospital waiting rooms and even take the initiative to say “hello” upon scanning a person’s face. It could also visit rooms on a set route, providing information to patients through its built-in touch screen interface, such as available physicians, registration services, and drug information. Professor Song Kaitai, in charge of the robot’s R&D, says in the future a single ROLA could realistically provide for about 15 patients, and could even be equipped with a drug-dispensing drawer which could further alleviate work normally done by nurses.
At a current cost of about 700,000 Chinese Yuan ($100,000 USD), ROLA won’t be commercialized just yet. However, Professor Song Kaitai suggested that with mass production the cost could be reduced to around $30,000 USD which may be affordable to most families.