A new European research project is about to start that will bring together a consortium of partners from academic institutions and industry across Europe led by the School of Nursing and Midwifery of the National University of Ireland, Galway.
The MARIO project aims to manage active and healthy ageing through the use of caring service robots. It is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, within the thematic section ‘Societal Challenge on Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing’. It assembles a team of international experts from academia, industry and dementia groups to work collaboratively in tackling the burdens imposed by dementia and developing innovative solutions using caring robots.
The project’s communication strategist, Prof. Kathleen Murphy of the Galway university (NUIG), explains: ‘MARIO is an exciting and innovative project that will make a huge difference to the lives of people with dementia. We will be working directly with people with dementia to ensure that the issues they see as important are addressed. Multi-faceted interventions will be developed, which will be delivered by humanoid robots.’
The 4 million Euros project starts on 1st of February 2015 and will last for 3 years. During this period three pilot studies of robots interacting with people with dementia will be undertaken. The first pilot will run in the west of Ireland, organised by NUIG’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, the second will run in Stockport, UK, organised the city’s health care managers, while the third will run in Italy, organised by a leading research hospital, Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, which is pushing research boundaries in comprehensive geriatric assessment. Project coordinator, Dr. Dympna Casey of NUIG, says of these pilot studies: ‘all interactions with caregivers, persons with dementia, older persons and stakeholders will fully comply with standards-based medical assessment methodologies and aspire to provide a truly user-led design ethos’.
The technology at the heart of MARIO is the robot Kompai, designed and developed by a consortium partner, French company Robosoft. Other partners in the consortium will provide technological expertise in the areas of robotic applications and semantic computing. All the outcomes of the research will be made public. These are expected to be of great benefit to people with dementia as well as lead to commercial opportunities for cutting-edge technology companies. According to Prof. Murphy, ‘the project will follow an open doors communications policy – the project is funded by the European Commission and its results belong to all the citizens of the European Union’.