RoRo. A New Robotic Rollator Concept to Assist the Elderly and Caregivers
People who suffer from difficulties in ambulating can be supported by using wheeled walking frames, also called rollators. Mechanical rollators are very helpful and provide physical stability but their functionality is limited. Electro-powered rollators can support the user whenever motor power is needed, e.g., when walking uphill or crossing the curbside of a sidewalk. The full potential of electric and smart rollators is not yet used. In this paper, we describe a new Robotic Rollator (RoRo) concept. The aim of RoRo is to guide elderly people autonomously through clinics and rehabilitation homes, e.g., to lead them to the radiology department or to the physiotherapist's office. Furthermore, RoRo trains the elderly and examines their mobility, stability, and strength, as well as their visual-spatial and cognitive abilities. For this purpose, RoRo is equipped with additional sensors to monitor vital data of the user and to relate them to the physical load. The autonomous rollator RoRo interacts in the closed controlled indoor environments with infrared markers (that cannot be seen by humans) to allow spatial positioning. In addition to the technological aims of RoRo, another focus of the ongoing project lies on a balanced interaction between RoRo and the patient to motivate therapeutic exercises, physical activity (like going for a walk), and simple entertainment. In the future, the autonomous rollator may become a social robot that trains and accompanies the user like a personal acquaintance.