IBM, in collaboration with Rice University, has developed the IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant (IBM MERA), a robot that can provide assistance to the elderly and their caregivers.

The MERA robot uses IBM’s Watson AI to provide assistance to the elderly. It can monitor vital signs and environmental changes in a non-invasive manner.

IBM research also plans to sign a deal with Sole Cooperativa, a healthcare provider in Italy, to install MERA in senior housing communities to monitor daily activities of senior residents.

IBM Developing Robot

The project aims to address a growing need for tech that helps the elderly preserve their independence and their overall health without disrupting their daily lives.

IBM Developing Robot To Improve Healthcare

“Now is the time to invest in, care for, protect, and empower our aging population so they can live more independent lives,” Arvind Krishna, senior vice president, IBM Research, said in a statement. “Our new research on ’embodied cognition,’ which can combine real-time data generated by sensors with cognitive computing, will explore how to provide clinicians and caregivers with insights that could help them make better care decisions for their patients.”

According to IBM, the technology will be wholly intuitive for senior citizens to use it on a regular basis. The embedded sensors that detect changes in motion, audio, and scent, makes MERA robot frictionless.

The prototype robot was first sent for testing at IBM’s Aging in Place laboratory based in Austin, Texas. The lab was designed to replicate experiences seniors have in their own home.

Mera’s sensors can detect when a person has fallen down, or when the stove’s burners are down. It’s also equipped with cameras to read facial expressions, as well as Watson-powered speech recognition to know when to call for help.

MERA robot is available to consumers yet. IBM still has a lot of research to do before it unveils the robot to the market. Currently, IBM is exploring IoT and other cognitive-powered technologies to study how data from audio and olfactory, motion and falling and atmospheric sensors can be used to provide improved healthcare to the elderly.