TU Ilmenau presents assistance robot for networking seniors and caregivers

Seniorin agiert mit PflegeroboterWengefeld
The care assistance robot of the TU Ilmenau in the AWO senior citizens' residential home in Ilmenau during the test phase

In a major collaborative research project, the Technische Universität Ilmenau and six partners have developed an assistance robot that enables people in need of care to communicate from home and thus stay connected with the people who care for them. Modern technology keeps seniors in constant contact with family members, acquaintances and caregivers and assists them with various services. The MORPHIA joint project, which has just ended, was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the "Robotic Systems for Care" funding priority with a good 1.9 million euros for three and a half years.

The number of people who are dependent on home care is rising steadily. In most cases, it is relatives who take over their care. But changing family structures and relatives who increasingly live far away are a steadily growing problem. Professional outpatient care services also look after those in need of care at home once to three times a day, depending on the level of care. But not only are seniors left to fend for themselves outside of care hours, the growing shortage of outpatient care workers is also fueling the care crisis. Patient-friendly technical assistance systems that support those in need of care and their relatives are the order of the day.

The joint research project MORPHIA ("Mobile Robotic Care Assistant to Improve Participation, Care and Safety in Home Care through Video-based Relatives Network") was coordinated by the TU Ilmenau and six partners from science, technology and care for three and a half years. MORPHIA - that is not just a robot: The autonomously operating assistance robot, equipped with interaction and communication capabilities, and an app-based communication network, form the MORPHIA system, with which all tasks in the care network can be coordinated and distributed quickly and effectively.

Seniorin im Raum mit PflegeroboterWengefeld

The robot closes the communication gap between patients and caregivers. Elderly people can communicate with it via video or chat - with relatives or friends for social exchange or with caregivers for support with certain activities such as taking medication, which the robot also reminds them to do. The robot also takes care of transporting meals or personal items within the home. When incoming calls come in, it looks for the seniors in the apartment, and if they need something, they can summon it by pressing a call button. In all its supporting activities, the robot has unlimited time and patience, it cheers up the seniors with humorous dialogs and sounds, and with surprising effects and unexpected suggestions and actions, it enriches their everyday lives and takes away a little of their loneliness. Relatives living far away can use an intelligent remote control to keep an eye on things in the senior's home or support them in certain activities via telepresence.

In a long-term test, the MORPHIA robot was tested by 13 senior citizens with an average age of 76 years in residential facilities of the AWO Ilmenau senior, youth and social welfare organization.All the while, the respective carers and facilities were also involved. In this way, the researchers were able to gain valuable insights into the use of care assistance robots in the daily home life of elderly people who are not used to dealing with modern communication technologies. With a total duration of user tests of 41 weeks without the presence of technical experts, MORPHIA also sets new international standards in assistance robotics.

When developing the robot, the scientists led by MORPHIA project manager Professor Horst-Michael Groß, head of theNeuroinformatics and Cognitive Robotics Lab at TU Ilmenau, made sure that the technology was easy to use by the elderly themselves and also by their relatives: "The MORPHIA system can be operated via smartphone, tablet or PC from any location. Of course, it was also very important to us that the robot be able to independently search for seniors in the home and that its remote navigation by relatives and care providers be suitable for everyday use and user-friendly. This will, I am convinced, connect care recipients and caregivers much more closely." Indeed, today relatives and employees from care and health professions often cooperate with each other not only directly on site, but also over long distances.The MORPHIA robot helps to coordinate and distribute care tasks among all those involved more easily.


Partners of the MORPHIA research project were:

The Neuroinformatics and Cognitive Robotics Lab at the TU Ilmenau has been working on intelligent assistance robots for public and private use scenarios for more than 25 years. In the MORPHIA project, it coordinated the research network and was responsible for the overall application of the robot system and for the safe navigation of the robot in the home as well as reliable person perception.

AWO AJS GmbH, an organisation providing care for the elderly, youth and social welfare, operates more than 200 social institutions in Thuringia, including numerous facilities and services for the elderly. In the MORPHIA project, the Ilmenau regional association acquired senior citizens and their relatives in inpatient, day-care and outpatient facilities and services for the user tests and accompanied them during the tests.

The company CIBEK Technology and Trading GmbH has been developing tablet-based technical assistance systems for older people for more than ten years. In the MORPHIA project, it developed the app-based communication platform for the care network.

The company MetraLabs GmbH Neue Technologien und Systeme Ilmenau has specialised in the development of production-ready, autonomous, mobile service robots for more than 15 years. In the MORPHIA project, it developed the mobile robotic platform for domestic use.

The SIBIS Institut für Sozial- und Technikforschung GmbH Berlin has many years of experience



Prof. Horst-Michael Groß
Head of Neuroinformatics and Cognitive Robotics Lab
+49 3677 69-2858