A robot that reminds elderly people to take their medication and monitors their vital signs will soon be able to entertain them while encouraging exercise and mobility.
Christchurch-based gaming company Stickmen Studios has developed a game – Kung Fu Funk – that can help rehabilitate people who have suffered brain injuries.
Stickmen Studios and the University of Auckland have teamed up to customise a robot with gaming facilities that will help elderly people stay active through interactive games.
The robot, Eldercare, has been developed with the Intelligent Robot Division of South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute.
The aim of the robot is to reduce the strain on healthcare resources as the aging population grows and improve the lives of people who are dependent on care.
David Cotter, business development manager of UniServices – a division of Auckland University that commercialises its research, said the robot could monitor a person’s blood pressure, or insulin levels and then transmit the data to a centre using wireless connections where a nurse or doctor can access it.
The robot can also fetch and carry and monitor when a person has fallen over through a bracelet that communicates with it. It then decides whether emergency services are needed.
Cotter said the robot, which is still in a development phase, would help balance out the volume of elderly people to caregivers.
“We can use technology to help keep people active and in their own homes [for longer]. The robot can also be used to monitor spiking insulin levels and monitor readings. Telecommunication medicine is the next generation of rest homes.”
Cotter said Stickmen Studios had created physical games that made people exercise without necessarily realising it.
“The games we could put on the Eldercare could help elderly people do movement such as tai chi.”
The university is also working on a robot that will assist autistic children.
According to the Medical Technology Association of New Zealand, the global medical technology industry is worth more than $400 billion a year – that figure is set to grow by 6 to 7 per cent a year.
The collaboration between the two organisation was borne at a UCONZ – University Commercialisation Offices of New Zealand – meeting.
UCONZ is a Government-funded initiative established to encourage New Zealand’s eight universities to build greater ties with businesses and better promote their research to corporate entities.
The trade shows are held to showcase to businesses what research is being conducted at universities and how that research can help with growth and development.
The next show will be held in February 9 at AUT University on manufacturing services such as nanotechnology, clean technology and prototypes.