Can a robot help a healthy lifestyle? Newcastle puts it to the test.
The UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) is the first in the world to evaluate “gita robots”, a cargo-carrying robot which follows you around. They are hoping to assess the impact of the robot helpers on the mobility of older adults.
The gita robot pairs with a person, freeing their hands and following them as they walk throughout their day. The robot can carry up to 18 kg of cargo, moving up to six miles per hour for up to four hours of continuous use. It communicates with the user through sound, light and touch, and with 360 vision, gita safely follows with sensors that see its user and its environment.
Gita® is a first-of-its-kind cargo-carrying following robot made by Boston-based robotics company Piaggio Fast Forward (PFF) and is backed by Piaggio Group, the manufacturer of the iconic Vespa scooters.
Human interactions and acceptance
The gita robots are being tested by the team at NICA on Newcastle Helix, where they will study human experiences and interactions with the robots and explore user acceptance.
This is one of the first cities in the world where this device will be applied to real-case scenarios involving older adults.Professor Nicola Palmarini, Director of the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing
This citizen-led project will examine how users adopt this ‘tech companion’ and evaluate how it can help mitigate loneliness and isolation, boost healthy behaviour by encouraging more walking and foster more independent and sustainable living. For example, it will be tested to see if it can be used by older adults to shop locally and help with heavy loads.
It is hoped that using the gita robot will encourage older people to walk more, giving them more confidence to go out into their communities by acting as a responsive companion and making them feel more connected with the outside world.
Future uses and considerations will play a vital part of this research, for example in light of COVID-19, this tech could have the potential to help people keep a safe distance.
The end goal is to understand how to best adopt these devices in cities like Newcastle, supporting people to remain healthy, active, independent, and connected in later life.
PFF was founded to create lifestyle-transforming mobility solutions, empowering people of all ages to interact and live independently. The gita robot was launched to consumers in the US market at the end of 2019.
This smart and futuristic tech is brought to the city by NICA who are based within Newcastle University. They are the UK home of Ageing Intelligence®, which brings together data-driven insight and human experiences to help bring new products, business models and services to market.
This trial is part of their work to help facilitate a society that is better equipped to meet the opportunities and challenges of an ageing population, helping to create a world in which we can all live smarter and healthier lives.
For more information about NICA visit https://www.uknica.co.uk/
Photo Credit: Christopher Owens christopherjamesowens.com