Flo the robot has a charming bedside manner

Collaboration between researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University could make life easier for senior citizens with the development of Flo, a personal robotic assistant for the elderly.

The goal of the project is to develop mobile, personal service robots to assist elderly people suffering from chronic disorders in their everyday life and to save on the estimated $100 billion medical and retirement costs incurred by senior citizens who take their medication incorrectly.

Professor Sebastian Thrun, director of the Robot Learning Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, and his colleagues have built Flo with $1.4 million in funding from the US National Science Foundation.

Flo’s primary purpose is to remind ‘patients’ when to take their medication. Flo has also been designed to perform a host of other care-giving tasks.

The robot’s tele-presence has been designed so that professional caregivers can use the robot to establish a remote presence and interact directly with patients in their home.

Similarly, the robot’s data collection and surveillance can avert a range of emergency conditions

Flo is also said to be able to alert others if a patient falls; it has handles so that it can be used as a movement aid; and it can send and retrieve e-mail and info from the Web. Flo also has voice-recognition software and ‘the rudiments of a personality.’

Thrun has further plans for Flo, including attaching robotic arms that could be manipulated by patients or even remote caregivers.