An Italian grandma and her robot nurse

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Added On July 4, 2014

An EU-funded team has developed a system that uses robots to take care of old people.
 
Lifestyles takes you to Italy, to see how the system changes a 94-year-old lady's life.
 
94-year-old Lea Mina Ralli lives alone in Rome, Italy.
 
Five months ago, she welcomed a new family member, a robot named Robin.
 
SOUNDBITE(ITALIAN): LEA MINA RALLI, Rome resident
"Finding a suitable nurse for me is not easy. I've tried again and again, until Robin came. Robin is quiet, doesn't bother me, and only moves when it's necessary."
 
Robin can help Lea move around in the house, and help her contact her relatives and friends.
 
Wearable devices throughout the house helps healthcare professionals to keep an eye on Lea's health condition, includes blood pressure and sugar levels.
 
While the sensors are designed to detect Lea's activities such as cooking, sleeping and watching television.
 
Lea feels satisfied with Robin, but she wants it to do more.
 
SOUNDBITE(ITALIAN): LEA MINA RALLI, Rome resident
"I hope the developers could invent a voice system for Robin. If I call Robin, it should recognize my voice and get close to me immediately. Currently, I have to push the call button to contact with Robin. It's not so convenient."
 
Robin is part of a system developed by an EU-funded team.
 
Named GiraffPlus, the system is now being tested in six homes in Europe, with two in Spain, two in Sweden and two in Italy.
 
The pilot program will be expanded to 15 homes by the end of this year.
 
Now, three million euros of EU funding has been injected in the system, to test how robots could help old people live a safer and more independent life.
 
SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH): PAUL TIMMERS, European Commission official
"We think that this solution, as it is accepted by her and other elder users, will be having a great potential in the future for many older people in the market. Today this project is still doing the testing, making sure it really works well, reliable and is acceptable for people who are all different, not everybody should have exactly the same solution, so it can be adapted. This will be until the end of the year. And then next year the project is expected to go into the market as a solution."
 
Official data show that EU residents with the age above 65 own a disposable income of over 3,000 billion euros, much of which will plough back into the caring economy. 
 
It is expected that the EU market for robots and other devices assisting of the elderly will reach 13 billion euros by 2016.
 
SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH): PAUL TIMMERS, European Commission official
"We have quite a challenge in Europe. There are many people getting older and we don't have enough people to take care of them. So by help of this technology, the robot, people can stay independently at home. So they are filling a gap that otherwise could not be filled. And if you would have to send a full time care worker there, it is also going to be very expensive as a matter of fact. This solution does now two things: first of all, it fills something that otherwise could not be provided. And it's actually even affordable if you would compare it to having a full time care worker there. The personal care will of course still be there very much, we don't even have enough of them but they can concentrate on other older people that need them even more."
 
Scientists of the project are taking suggestions of the old people who live with the robots, trying to make improvement of the system.
 
According to the EU, the system is expected to be put into commercial production by the end of next year.