Geriatronics: Robotics, Mechatronics, and AI for the elderly
Enabling the elderly and people in need of care to live independently for as long as possible with the help of robotics, mechatronics, and artificial intelligence: Since 2018, a team of scientists from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and partners has been working on this goal, primarily at the Garmisch-Partenkirchen site.
People are getting older and older, while the shortage of skilled workers in the health sector makes it less and less possible to guarantee care for the so-called third-agers. Service robots can contribute here to supporting people in need of care and careers.
The goal: Humanoid service robots for everyday life
To find out to what extent robots can be a good help in everyday life, the Munich Institute of Robotics and Machine Intelligence (MIRMI) at TUM has launched research together with partners including LongLeif GaPa gGmbH, Caritas, the Deutsches Museum (German Museum) and robotics companies such as Franka Emika and Reactive Robotics. Since 2018, scientists have been developing concrete solutions to support people in old age in a series of research projects.
In the main projects Project X and Project Y, the focus is on developing concrete solutions for everyday life:
- In Project X, core technologies are developed and corresponding systems are integrated, necessary connections are made and the technology is made to work in a real-world scenario. The focus of Project X is to research, validate and continuously improve medical assistance robot systems in real-life environments together with older people and care facilities.
- Project Y is primarily about the "Technology and Field Research Module of Geriatric Medicine". Concrete scenarios for innovative humanoid service robots and new robotics hardware are being developed here. Within the framework of Project Y, for example, the first autonomous service robot Garmi was created, whose ability to interact is already being tested in pilot flats.
Other research projects deal with specific questions:
- The Responsible Robotics project examines the ethical, social, political, and societal challenges associated with the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare and society. Specifically, empirical studies are being conducted, for example, for the use of Garmi in nursing care, and standards and recommendations for the use of AI applications in healthcare are being developed.
Already finished research projects:
- The KoBo34 project is about developing a service robot that can interact with people as a "personalizable assistance system" and support them in everyday matters.
- The MobIPar project is about "mobilizing people in need of intensive care through adaptive robotics". Specifically, for example, an exoskeleton for patients was developed to promote patient mobility. The special feature is that the exoskeleton can adapt to the individual abilities (or limitations) of the patient.
- In the ProteCT project, telemedical solutions were developed so that medical staff can also carry out individual examinations remotely. This protects both patients and medical staff from infections (such as the Coronavirus).
Garmi as a flagship of Geriatronics
"Garmi" is the flagship of this research. The humanoid service robot, which is about the size of a human, moves on wheels and has two flexible robot arms that are equipped with special abilities, e.g. a sense of touch. For example, you can grab a glass or cup and serve water or tea. Like a physiotherapist, Garmi can perform mobilization training with the patient. In addition, Garmi can be networked with attending physicians. From their office, the General Practitioner can examine his patients without having to be there in person. Telemedicine applications are going so far with developments such as tactile robotics that a doctor can even palpate the patient or perform ultrasound examinations.
TUM Campus Geriatronics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
A campus will be built in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on this topic, where a master's degree course will be established in addition to the TUM's research work. Partners such as Caritas and LongLeif GaPa gGmbH complete the campus with a care center, assisted living, and a caring school. This will create a real laboratory in which research, teaching, care, and living will be closely networked in one place.
Funding: Public, private, and industrial support
Funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy, the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation (bidt), and Longleif GaPa gGmbH, as well as financial support from Vodafone and partners, will provide a total of more than 23 million euros for the research until the beginning of 2027.
Executive Director Munich Institute of Robotics and Machine Intelligence (MIRMI) and Head of the chair of Robotics and Systems Intelligence. Technical University Munich (TUM)