PR2 Beta Sites: Spotlight on Georgia Tech

TeaAssistive Mobile Manipulation for Older Adults at Home

A PR2 will soon arrive at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, where an interdisciplinary team will research how robots can help older adults live independently at home. The populations of the United States, Europe, and Japan are all getting older. With proportionally fewer young people around to provide care, experts are concerned that costs will skyrocket and seniors will not receive the help they desire. Robots like the PR2 may be able to help older adults stay in their homes longer with a high quality of life. The Georgia Tech team aims to make progress towards this long-held dream.

Rather than try to guess what seniors want, the team will work with older adults to better understand their needs and how robots can help. The team will also write code to make the PR2 perform helpful tasks at home. By working closely with seniors throughout the research process, the team hopes to better meet real needs and accelerate progress. To make everything more realistic, the robot will spend some of its time in a real, two-story house on the Georgia Tech campus, called the Aware Home. This will enable older adults to work with the robot in a convincing environment, and will give the software developers a good place to test their code.

It's an ambitious proposal, but the Georgia Tech team has the experience to pull it off. For example, the Healthcare Robotics Lab, which is leading the software development, has extensive background in human-scale assistive robots to help people with severe motor impairments. Their robots Cody and EL-E already use ROS and the lab plans to port many of these robots' capabilities to the PR2, including opening doors and drawers, operating lamps and light switches, fetching and delivering objects, and perception for operation in cluttered environments. Moreover, the Healthcare Robotics Lab has developed intuitive interfaces that people can use to command Cody and EL-E, such as a point and click interface that uses a laser pointer, an RFID-based interface, and direct physical interfaces.

Another key part of the team is the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory from the School of Psychology; this group will be leading the human-robot interaction research. They have extensive experience researching technology for older adults, including a recent survey on how older adults would like to use robots.

This PR2 team will bring us closer to the day when robotic assistance allows people to confidently stay in their homes as they get older.

Georgia TechThe Team

The Georgia Tech team combines the expertise of researchers from biomedical engineering, psychology, and interactive computing. Several members are also active in Georgia Tech's Center for Robotics and Intelligent Machines and the Robotics PhD program.

Prof. Charlie Kemp, who is director of the Healthcare Robotics Lab, is leading the overall project and the software development thrust. Prof. Wendy Rogers, who is director of the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory, is leading the human-robot interaction thrust. The other team members follow:

The team includes an excellent group of graduate students and postdocs, including the following: Jenay Beer, Tiffany Chen, Travis Deyle, Tucker Hermans, Advait Jain, Marc Killpack, Chih-Hung (Aaron) King, Hai Nguyen, and Cory-Ann Smarr.


Below is a video of Charlie Kemp presenting Georgia Tech's proposal to the rest of the PR2 Beta Program participants. You can download the slides as PDF.

Article written with assistance from Travis Deyle (Healthcare Robotics Lab and and Prof. Charlie Kemp.