Socially Assistive Robot to be Featured in American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging


Think robots exist just in the movies? Think again. A groundbreaking socially assistive robot will be on display at the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging’s (AAHSA) Annual Meeting & Exposition in Los Angeles this October. This will be the first public demonstration of the robot’s capabilities, which include assisting older people with physical exercise and monitoring vital health statistics.

The robot, developed by Dr. Maja J. Mataric, professor and senior associate dean at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering, is designed to assist older people in exercises, either as part of a daily routine or rehabilitation. Unlike previous robotic technologies, the robot is socially interactive, and is able to detect and respond to a person’s emotion or physical movements. This allows for better adaptation to the robot as part of an everyday exercise regimen, and attempts to remove a sense of isolation that an older person may feel.

The exercise robot is just one of the technologies being displayed in the AAHSA Idea House, a 2,500-square-foot concept house designed to illustrate how technology and design can be integrated to facilitate aging in place and continued participation in the community. The house, which will be open to the public during the AAHSA Annual Meeting & Exposition, October 31-November 3 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, will feature design elements such as modified kitchens and bathrooms as well as technologies designed to improve older people’s quality of life, while reducing health care costs, encouraging healthy behavior change and providing caregivers with support.

Designed with interactivity, socialization and changing mental and physical needs in mind, the focus of this year’s Idea House is physical mobility. AAHSA will be incorporating additional tools and technologies for older people to live a healthy, active lifestyle. In addition to the robot, this includes an exercise pool and outdoor fitness equipment developed especially for older adults.

“The Center for Aging Services and Technologies (CAST) and the AAHSA 2010 Idea House offers visitors the opportunity to see first-hand how assistive robotic technology can improve older adults’ quality of life,” said Majd Alwan, Ph.D., director of AAHSA’s CAST coalition. “We look forward to sharing their knowledge with providers across the country.”

According to research found in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, “people who engage in regular physical activity are gaining an anti-aging weapon that will help them live longer lives.” The study shows that exercise improves the cardiovascular system of an older person by actually altering the DNA that may rigger or prevent heart disease.

“Our goal is to develop friendly, intelligent robots that fill the roles of a buddy and a coach, in order to both inspire and motivate people to exercise regularly in their homes, since social exercise is more enjoyable and supervised exercise is more effective” said Dr. Mataric,’ “Socially assistive robots can be customized to fit the user’s personality, exercise preferences, and interaction styles. For example, the robot may be pushy or nurturing as a coach, and can even use an appropriate type of jokes as a buddy.” she added.

Older adults from Southern California Presbyterian Homes are currently using the robot as a part of a study to observe the robot’s interactivity with older people.

High-resolution renderings of the AAHSA Idea House are available at A video of the robot can be found at

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