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    Laufzeit: bis Ende 2021

    Förderung: DAAD

    Ansprechpartner: Felix Carros


    CONTACT aims to establish a new paradigm for personalized robot-based services for people in need of cognitive support. The project will improve the sustainability of care and effectiveness of therapy delegating some aspects of human-based care to robots and advanced technology.

    The main purpose of this project is to provide in parallel:

    • Adaptive cognitive therapy and training
    • Emotional and psychological support

    This will be accomplished by deploying a variety of assistive robots and developing adaptive algorithms to introduce entertainment elements in daily support activities.

    A still unresolved problem in the treatment of people with cognitive disorders or impairment is the comorbidity with emotional and psychological problems which often develop into psychiatric disorders due to the difficulty of diagnosis and precise treatment. These emotional problems are common for people with cognitive challenges at all age ranges and often decrease greatly their quality of life, hindering the effectiveness of cognitive therapy and training as the subject is unable to focus and cope with the emotional turmoil.

    For example, depression, anxiety and agitation are very common in elderly subjects with dementia, but the distinction between symptoms of anxiety and symptoms of dementia, and the overlap between anxiety, depression, and agitation, make these conditions difficult to precisely diagnose and treat.

    Both children and adults with cognitive deficits have a higher risk of psychiatric disorders and behavioral problems than people in the general population. Treatment may be necessary for behavioral issues. For example, a child might have problems with the following: attention, sleep, aggression, self-harming behaviors. Anxiety and extreme mood swings are also common in children with developmental delays.

    Psychologists and other therapists can address some of these issues through behavioral modification.

    In recent years, there have been several attempts to use Entertainment in the medical field, with entertaining therapeutic activities designated to promote motivation during rehabilitation programs, or to enhance mental health counteracting the effects of chronic depression. Introducing humor in the daily routine of subjects in situation of distress and depression, for example elderly in poor health conditions or lonely, or people with any kind of psychophysical problem, could improve the overall health conditions and help to regain psychological equilibrium. This can help to cope with the burdens of actual reality, and it is particularly sought after in those situations in which the subject’s attitude to reality blocks her chances of improvement or decreases her quality of life.

    This naturally leads to the application of entertainment in both the educational and therapeutic fields: for example, learning or rehabilitation processes can be perceived as very boring or even hopeless, with tedious lessons and repetitive and seemingly useless exercises, hitting on the subject’s weaknesses and inabilities. The “gamification” of educational or therapeutic activities would promote attention and improve the learning or healing curve.

    Strategies that apply to the depressed adult population can also be used for people with dementia and depression. If it is too difficult for the patient to continue with daily personal care (e.g. shopping, meal preparation, chores) during their depressive episode, relief and support should be offered. Daily activities that may raise mood, and pleasant but not onerous social and physical activity within the person’s capability, should be maximized. Positive, optimistic and ‘glass half-full’ thinking should be encouraged while negative thinking should be discouraged.

    However, cognitive and psychological support and treatment currently present logistical problems that severely hinder the effectiveness of the process:

    • Due to the financial load of diagnosis and treatment, behavioral conditions are often neglected, and support is usually requested/provided at a late stage when mental abilities are already severely degraded
    • Human-based treatment and support can worsen the psychological condition of the subject, i.e. instilling a sense of uselessness, powerlessness, and lowering self-esteem and confidence in elderlies or triggering aggressive or oppositional behaviors in children
    • Conventional treatment is difficult to tailor on the subject’s needs and is often compartmentalized in areas of interventions, separating cognitive or motor training, emotional therapy and self-care support, greatly affecting the overall effectiveness of the interventions

    The combined use of interconnected personal assistive robots and sensor devices for health and safety can help solving these problems. CONTACT’s empathetic, advanced interactive robots will overcome these problems by offering easy interfaces to support a natural user experience, very similar to human-human daily social interaction, unifying all the aspects of treatment, offering a seamless continuous treatment and support environment, and incorporating game and entertainment elements in the proposed activities. This will encourage the users to use the robots, accepting their support for everyday activities and engaging in the frequent treatment and therapeutic activities. Moreover, advanced algorithms for the monitoring of cognitive and emotional state of the user will help the development of adaptive cognitive support strategies based on the current state of the user, tailoring the interventions not only on the specific user, but even on the specific user current overall state, maximizing the quality and effectiveness of the intervention.

    In this way, cognitive supporting HRI CONTACT robots will significantly increase the quality of life of the users, empowering them to live a longer independent, dignified life and delay potential continuous medical and nursing care. This in turn would lead to a temporal, emotional, mental and physical workload discharge for informal and formal caregivers, and also to cost savings for health and social insurers due to avoided care home admissions, doctor visits or hospitalization. In summary, CONTACT will solve the currently existing problems in human-based cognitive support and treatment by:

    • Provide affordable robotic solutions for long-term, personalized cognitive support and treatment.
    • Provide emotional and behavioral seamless support to avoid the arising of negative emotions in the users leading to the rejection of proposed support and treatment activities
    • Provide personalized assistive programs, tailored on each user’s need, thanks to the data collection and analysis power of the networked robotic devices and health monitoring systems.