Researchers from the Biomedical Neuroengineering Group of the Miguel Hernández University (UMH) of Elche have presented this morning a robotic exoskeleton, anchored to a wheelchair, that assists people with different degrees of disability in the autonomous execution of daily life tasks such as eating, drinking or grooming. This project, developed for the first time worldwide, is coordinated by the professor of Systems Engineering and Automation at the UMH, Nicolas Garciaand financed by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program with 3.4 million euros.
The fundamental objective of this project, in which 9 institutions and companies from Italy, Germany, Great Britain and Spain participate together with the UMH, is to contribute to the improvement of the user-technology interface to increase the degree of user independence. During the demonstration of this exoskeleton, a user asked the prototype to take him to the cafeteria of the Rectorate and Social Council building, asked the waiter for a soft drink and subsequently drank it.
Specifically, researchers have developed a system made up of different modules, intended to assist people with disabilities in their daily living activities. A key element in this project, titled “Adaptive Multimodal Interfaces to Assist People with Disabilities in Daily Activities” AIDE), is the development of a revolutionary interface that allows the user to easily and autonomously control all this technology. Thanks to this multimodal and adaptable interface, it is possible to combine the different devices that have been developed within the project AIDE to adapt the system to the user’s needs. Artificial intelligence system control algorithms AIDE They allow the level of assistance provided by the robotic exoskeleton to be modified adaptively and dynamically according to the specific needs of the user.
Furthermore, the system AIDE will allow people with disabilities to improve communication with their family and friends, through the use of standard Internet services such as email, Skype, WhatsApp and social networks (Facebook and Twitter). Likewise, it aims to improve control of the environment such as turning lights on/off, television, answering or initiating a phone call, as well as improving the user’s accessibility to entertainment.
The system AIDE has been evaluated by 17 people with different degrees of disability in the foundation cedar in Belfast (United Kingdom) with excellent results. This research project began on February 1, 2015 and ended on May 31, 2018.
Currently, the main trend in the development of assistive technology to support activities of daily living (ADL) (mobility, communication, etc.) is based on the integration of user capabilities and assistive technologies. However, the assistance devices currently available do not allow a real and effective integration of users with different abilities and among the assistance technologies there are no robotic exoskeletons that allow the user to interact with their environment and perform tasks themselves such as eating, drinking, etc. .
Approximately 80 million people in the EU (one sixth of its population) have some type of disability. This fact often implies a series of physical, psychological and social barriers that make it difficult for them to participate in social and economic life. According to article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed by the European Commission in 2010, “accessibility” is a basic right for all people with disabilities. The goal of accessibility is to enable people with disabilities to live independently and participate in all aspects of life.