The overall proposal objectives are:
To use state-of-the-art, modular, flexible and cost effective robot technology for developing an ICT supported service robotics system assisting the frail senior citizens to safely enter and exit the shower environment and most importantly to safely, effectively and independently perform the complete sequence of shower activities, such as properly washing their back, their lower limbs, upper parts, their buttocks and groin, and to effectively use the towel, while respecting their privacy and dignity.
To deliver a service robotics system in the bathroom environment that is absolutely safe and reliable from all end user, operational and industrial perspectives.
To deliver disruptive innovations by seamlessly integrating human-robot interaction, cognition, sensing and actuation in the integrated service robotics system that are fully adaptable to the user’s behaviour and abilities (in particular to his/her manipulation and force exertion abilities, as well as address cognitive abilities to the extent possible.).
To enable intuitive and transparent user-machine interaction by the incorporation of sophisticated but reliable user intention recognition techniques and to enable, in real time, adaptation of the reactive and supportive service robotics system‘ behaviour.
To support and maximise safety and self-confidence for the frail users by enabling monitoring of the user’s well-being while in the bathroom environment (including triggering of alerts in case of suspicious or risky incidents e.g. falls, excessive humidity or water temperature, etc.)
To design, develop and deliver a service robotics system in the bathroom environment that is acceptable by end users, taking into full account of all relevant ethical, sociological and gender considerations.
To design, develop and deliver a close-to-market prototype that is modular, flexible, cost-effective and requires minimum interventions to the existing bathroom environment, thus making it easily deployable to satisfy a wide variety of (incremental) user needs ranging from individual home settings to hospital, nursing care homes, sheltered housing and other assisted living facilities.
To demonstrate that the proposed robotic service contributes to better quality of life, autonomy, longer independent living and minimisation of the need for health care assistance or institutionalization when ageing with emergent functional impairments.
The I-SUPPORT project envisions the development and integration of an innovative, modular, ICT-supported service robotics system that supports and enhances frail older adults’ motion and force abilities and assists them in successfully, safely and independently completing the entire sequence of bathing tasks, such as properly washing their back, their upper parts, their lower limbs, their buttocks and groin, and to effectively use the towel for drying purposes. Advanced modules of cognition, sensing, context awareness and actuation will be developed and seamlessly integrated into the service robotics system to enable the robotic bathing system to adapt to the frail senior citizens population’ abilities and enable frail senior users to interact with the robotic system in a master-slave mode, thus, performing bathing activities in an intuitive and safe way. Adaptation and integration of state-of-theart, cost-effective, soft-robotic arms will provide the hardware constituents, which, together with advanced human-robot force/compliance control that will be developed within the proposed project, will form the basis for a safe physical human-robot interaction that complies with the most up-to-date safety standards. Human behavioural, sociological, safety, ethical and acceptability aspects, as well as financial factors related to the proposed service robotics system will be thoroughly investigated and evaluated so that the I-SUPPORT end result is a close-to-market prototype, applicable to realistic living settings.
The final I-SUPPORT robotic service will constitute a major contribution to the quality of life, autonomy and independent living of the ageing population by enabling to take care of themselves and thus, reducing the amount of personal nursing/care services required and significantly supporting the prolongation of the time spent living in own home.
3D CAD of the system
The past century has witnessed unprecedented gains in the life expectancy of European population and population in the rest of the developed countries. However, these gains may be accompanied by increased morbidity due to age-related chronic conditions and loss of abilities.
One important measure of morbidity and quality of life is a person‘s ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADL) such as bathing, dressing, transferring, toileting and feeding. When people are unable to perform even one of these basic personal care tasks, they become dependent on help from either informal or formal caregivers. As a result, difficulties in performing ADLs are a significant predictor of nursing care home use, use of hospital services, use of physician services, and mortality.
A number of studies have assessed the extent to which loss of function across ADLs progresses hierarchically and it has been shown that just as there is an orderly pattern of development of function in the child, there is an ordered regression as part of the natural process of aging  and quite often the order of the later is the reverse of the order of the former.
Loss of function typically begins with those activities, which are most complex1 and least basic2, while these functions that are most basic and least complex can be retained to the last. Shower and bathing is one of the complex and least basic activities and, thus, it is among the first that are lost. In addition it is among the last that are regained during post-surgery recovery. Once again, it has been reported that the pattern of recovery from a disabling illness in later life parallels the primary development of function in the child. Furthermore, older adults’ bathing is reported as one of the first ADLs that residents of a nursing home population lost the ability to perform]. This clearly suggests that support in bathing activities, as an early marker of ADL disability, will foster independent living for persons prone to loss of autonomy and relieve the caring and nursing burden of the family, domiciliary services, medical centers and other assisted living environments. The functions that are most likely to require nursing assistance are shown in the following table in an order of hierarchical progression (the elderly population lose the bathing capability first and the feeding capability last).
Although bathing is one of the high risk activities regarding the ageing population and one of the first ADLs that demand for nursing assistance, there has been relatively little work on developing robots that provide hygiene and/or bathing assistance. There have been research efforts towards a robotic bed-bath solution, which applies mostly to immobilised patients and not to the frail older adults group. Hence, there is an unmet need for an ICT-supported service robotics system that will assist the frail older adults in their hygiene tasks by compensating for their loss of strength and flexibility in performing these tasks. The major requirements for a service robotics system that targets hygiene tasks and more specifically bathing tasks, include safety, reliability, acceptability by users, adaptability to users‘ actions, intentions, cognitive and mobility needs and capabilities. Furthermore, given the sensitive nature of the bathing activity, such a system must take into account ethical, sociological and gender considerations.
Human robot interaction devices
Finally, as the ultimate goal is to reach application in real life settings, it should be modular, flexible and cost-effective, requiring minimum interventions to the user‘s bathroom environment.
The latest emerging developments of advanced ICT and robotic technology, such as state-of-the-art actuation systems and soft-robots, sensing and cognition methods and algorithms, robot control and human machine interfacing techniques, fall detection solutions etc., are providing the grounds on which developments to meet the above requirements can be based on.
To this end, the I-SUPPORT project turns each of the above requirements into specific I-SUPPORT objectives and each of the above enabling technologies into the I-SUPPORT implementation methods.