alarmsA consortium of leading researchers, care providers and robotics experts have received a major award of over £2m from Innovate UK to develop a modular robotic solution for the home to revolutionise long-term care by giving people the choice to stay independent in their own homes as they age.

The Office for Budget Responsibility recognises that by 2065, 26% of the population of England and Wales would be more than 65 years old, up from 18% today. With increasing numbers of older adults needing assistance in later life, there is a challenge for society as to how best provide and maintain high quality support, and ensure that people can stay integrated and valued members of their communities.

The CHIRON project is developing a connected system of modular robotic components, which can be adapted to different assistive tasks. CHIRON’s various components will be designed to be mixed and matched. This will enable the person using CHIRON to undertake a wide range of domestic and self-care tasks independently, which for some people could mean that their carer would then have more time to spend providing valuable social companionship. The project will create a prototype that will lead to the development of a commercially viable product.

The CHIRON consortium is led by Designability, specialists in assistive technology solutions that enhance people’s lives. The key technology partners are Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) and Shadow Robot Company, experts in conducting pioneering research and development in robotics. Award winning social enterprise care provider, Three Sisters Care will bring user-centred design to the core of the project, with Telemetry Associates providing project management support. Smart Homes & Buildings Association, specialists in telecare and assisted living, will bring sector knowledge to the project to support commercialisation.

The project will draw upon the consortium’s expertise of working with end-users, clinicians, and health and social care providers, to develop an effective robotic solution that offers adaptability to a person's changing needs.

Designability Director, Professor Nigel Harris said, ‘We are tremendously pleased to contribute to this work, focusing on the Long Term Care Revolution. This project is all about technological innovation and perfectly complements other work that looks at social innovation.’

Praminda Caleb-Solly, Associate Professor in Independent Living Systems, who is principal investigator on CHIRON in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said, “We are proposing a paradigm shift to enable assistive care robots to become a reality. Our approach is to combine modular functional units that work in a distributed manner, adapting to support user needs in context. The focus is on robust solutions that can be integrated with other products and assistive devices. This will also impact on personal and social perception and understanding of assistive robotics, and how people interact with these technologies to best support them.

“Our ultimate aim is to offer a new perspective on ageing, helping people realise their aspirations as they age. It is also important that CHIRON products look good and feel good. Aesthetic and beautiful designs that suit a range of preferences will be developed in collaboration with user experience and product designers. As the system develops it will be installed and trialled in the BRL’s Anchor Robotics Assisted Living Studio which will ensure that it is tested for safety and usability in a realistic environment.”