Five New Robots in 2016

  1. MiRo

MiRo, by Sebastian Conran Associates, is marketed as a “biomimetic companion robot”. Modelled on a dog – albeit a dog that will transmit news of any problems in the home to a hub, remind you to take your medicine, and remind you of your visitors’ names – MiRo was met with derision recently by the Guardian. They scoffed ‘What visitors? If you had any, you wouldn’t need a robot.’ The designers have modelled MiRo on animals, ‘from their senses and decision-making processes, all the way through to their bodies and behaviours’. The robot also claims to be self-assembly and comes with instructions. With a ‘low cost fully programmable autonomous platform the companion robot is has six senses, eight degrees of freedom, an innovative brain-inspired operating system and a simulation software package’. The MiRo seems nifty and useful, just as long as it avoids becoming a trip hazard.

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Asus Zenbo
  1. Asus Zenbo

Zenbo is a new robot friend aimed at seniors and kids. It is described as a smart home manager, security guard, hands-free kitchen assistant, and family photographer. The video markets it as fitting into the family as somewhat a remote carer and childminder in one – reading stories to your children and following you around reminding you, like a tiny, wide-eyed, benevolent secretary, of the appointments you’ve forgotten. Zenbo provides recipe recommendations and similar services in response to voice queries. Users can also use Zenbo to buy goods online by logging into accounts and inputting passwords with their voice, and take photos like an autonomous selfie stick. Asus can also recognise your older relative falling over, take a photo of it and send it to you. This might be useful in a worst-case scenarios. The device will cost $599 when it becomes available.

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The Geminoid Robot
  1. Geminoid Robot

This life-like robot showed up at the World Robot Exhibition in Beijing earlier this year. Named Android Geminoid F, the robot already has fans, with some even describing her as ‘sexy’ (I can personally think of a few more accurate words!)
Geminoid is designed act like a human with rubber ‘skin’ and a woman’s face – but can’t walk and has to be wheeled around. The robot was created by Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory at Osaka University who plan on creating a better model in the future. The robot can smile, furrow her brows and move her mouth. It can also talk and sing – playing recordings, or ‘mouthing’ other people’s voices. She is equipped with motorised actuators, powered by air pressure, which allow her to ‘copy’ human facial expressions. The current version of Geminoid F costs $108,600 (£72,000).

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The activPAL will be worn in a similar way to the Fitbit
  1. ActivPAL

Hoping to bring new help to people with dementia, the activPAL tracker, which is strapped to the bottom of the leg, measures all movement from side to side, up and down, and backwards and forwards. It sends the information back to a computer which analyses it to provide details about how long a patient spends sitting, how active they are, when they eat, whether they are going to bed at the right time and how many times they get up in the night. The movement can give dementia patients and their carers details about their lives, which they can use to monitor their health. Dr Chris Pickford, of the University of Salford, said the technology could provide unique insights into patients’ conditions and help spot problems before they become serious.

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The Lean Elderly Assistant (LEA)
  1. LEA

We wrote a post about this earlier this year when one of our project leads Jobeda Ali went to the launch of the LEA. The Lean Elderly Assistant robot (LEA) pretty much looks like a stroller with an iPad stuck on top. LEA helps with walking and transferring, however it is also disguising hundreds of extremely useful functions, sensors and programmes that are continuously being refined. For example, it can remind you to take your medicine or physically help with exercising. It does not ‘feel’ to most users and the public like a robot.


Not technically a robot, but we would be remit if we didn’t mention an app which has been doing well this year. SAM, co-designed by CHIRON’s own Praminda Caleb-Solly is a free self-help app for anxiety. It has been downloaded by over 500,000 users from more than 100 countries since its launch in July 2013. It has been in the top 100 health and fitness apps in 85 countries and received thousands of positive reviews. The SAM app helps users to cope and deal with common symptoms associated with mild to moderate anxiety. It enables users to monitor their anxiety levels and visualise an anxiety profile over time, also to discover and apply self-help techniques via multimedia mini-games.


Misconceptions about designing technology for dementia – it’s simple or it’s impossible!

This article has been reblogged with the permission of Designability – original article available here

Hazel Boyd
, User Interface Engineer at Designability, specialises in designing technology with and for people with dementia. She wants to tackle some myths that are commonly assumed when designing for dementia.

I often hear the same contradiction from people about designing with people with dementia in mind. Some say:

“Your simple, standalone products must have been easy to design”

Whereas some tell us:

“It must be really hard to design for people with dementia”

These views are understandable when they come from people who don’t get to see the design process in action, or from those who have no direct contact with people who have dementia. Part of our role is to educate and inform people to help change those views.  There are quite a few misconceptions that we commonly hear, the most common being:

Myth #1: You can’t ask people with dementia what they think because they don’t know and they can’t tell you

This will be a shocking statement to those who work with people who have dementia. Many people with the condition are still actively enjoying life, using iPads or even writing their own blogs. However, many think that people with dementia are no longer able to give their opinions in a meaningful way because of their illness. But we know that dementia is progressive and therefore does not affect everyone significantly to start with. Those who have always been interested in design or volunteering their views may still be willing and able to continue to do that for some time. There are appropriate ways to speak with those with more advanced dementia to enable them to share their views, opinions and ideas. If product designers do not engage with their customers and product users, they are missing out on a wealth of valuable information.

Myth #2: People are all individuals so you can’t possibly design something that works for everyone with dementia

It’s true that many aspects of a person with dementia are not governed by their dementia. A group of people with dementia will have different ages, backgrounds, personalities, interests and other things.  Similarly, different types of dementia manifest in different ways and progress differently in each person. However, our research has shown that there are some common aspects of design which can work well for many people with dementia. The most common aspect that we deal with is the reduction in short-term memory, which requires us to base our products on familiar and/or obvious ideas. Designing to support poor short-term memory works regardless of people’s differences. In addition, by designing products that work for a large number of people, we are better able to reduce product costs, and help more  people.

Myth #3: That looks simple, so it will be easy to use

It is a common assumption that simple is the same as easy. In our design work it has become quickly apparent that they are not the same at all. Simple design might have few features or dials and look very easy to use. Indeed, for people who do not have dementia, they might be easy. However, many of us take for granted how we adapt when using products, and how well we can compensate for any confusion or lack of information as we find our way around something new. Reduced short-term memory limits this ability to adapt, meaning that simple may not be enough. Straightforward controls which are familiar, or described clearly at the point of use, are essential. If an object is not recognised (the new washing machine or a different TV remote control) it may never get used at all.

Myth #4: Intuitive design is no good, my Dad can’t use a smartphone and that’s intuitive

There seems to be a widely held view that some leading smartphones (for example) are intuitive to use. However, what they actually do is work smoothly, are easy to learn and match what the user wants to do. This learning is something that becomes tougher for someone with short-term memory problems. In our designs, we work hard to make sure that no learning is required and that they can always be used “as if for the first time”. We know that people with early stage dementia, or people with types of dementia which do not initially result in memory loss, can still learn new skills. However, we focus on those without the capacity to learn for our target group as their need is greatest.

These are not the only misconceptions that we come across in our design work. However busting these myths does help designers, carers and users understand why some products work well for those living with dementia and some do not.

What other myths are you keen to challenge in this area? Let us know in the comments.

Hazel was actively involved in the development of our Day Clock, One Button Radio and Simple Music Player and is currently engaged in ongoing research and development in the field of assistive technologies for those living with dementia.