National Robotarium partnership aims to help people with disabilities


A SCOTTISH charity is partnering with the National Robotarium, in a collaboration aiming to increase independence for people with disabilities.

Researchers will engage with guests at Leuchie House, a North Berwick-based charity respite centre, which recently opened the onsite Centre for Enabling Technology.

Working together to trial and test different technologies for assisted living, the project aims to make everyday tasks easier.

Leuchie House partners with National Robotarium - Research News
Academics from the National Robotarium visit Leuchie House.

Some of the potential functions include helping users to open doors, switch lights on and off, draw curtains, watch television, listen to the radio and make telephone calls.

Other possibilities are also being looked into, such as using technology to monitor deterioration in dementia cases or provide support after a stroke.

Across Scotland, 1 million people live with a neurological condition, 10% of which are disabled as a result.

Through developing these technologies, it is hoped that individuals will gain greater independence and some pressure will be relieved from carers and the wider care sector.

Leuchie House partners with National Robotarium - Research News
Robots in the Assisted Living Lab at the National Robotarium.

Professor Lynne Baillie, Head of the Assisted Living Lab at the National Robotarium, said: “Our partnership with Leuchie House will allow us to work collaboratively with their guests and carers to develop assisted living technology that truly works for users.

“We will engage directly with individuals to learn more about their unique needs and hear their ideas about how robotic and sensing technologies could provide support.

“Guests will then be invited to our Assisted Living Lab at the National Robotarium to participate in trials of technologies designed to meet these needs in a realistic home setting.”

Leuchie House partners with National Robotarium - Research News
A robot provides assistance in the Assisted Living Lab at the National Robotarium.

The National Robotarium is based on-campus at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh and is run in conjunction with Edinburgh University.

To fund the research, the UK Government has contributed £21 million and an additional £1.4 million has been provided by the Scottish Government, via the £1.3 billion Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart, said: “The innovative use of robots in social care has the potential to improve people’s lives and help them to live independently.

“I welcome the National Robotarium’s partnership with Leuchie House and look forward to seeing its progress.”

Providing tailored short respite breaks for people with neurological conditions – such as MS, Parkinson’s, MND and strokes – Leuchie House supports not only its guests, but also helps carers to take a break.

Leuchie House partners with National Robotarium - Research News
Residents and staff at Leuchie House, North Berwick.

One in five carers reported that they have not had a break in five years, plus there are 1.1 million unpaid carers across Scotland.

Mark Bevan, CEO at Leuchie House, said: “Leuchie House is traditionally known for our class leading residential short breaks and, building from this strength, we have been introducing guests and those who care for them to the benefits of enabling technology, which can restore independence and self-management.

“Our rooms for example are equipped with voice activated environmental controls, to show our guests the art of the possible.

“Our technology team works with guests to install similar technologies at home, giving them and those who care for them more independence and complementing residential short breaks.

“This exciting partnership between the National Respite Centre and the National Robotarium is a further example of how we can build on the past and re-imagine respite for the future.

“It is a key part of our creation of a new National Centre for Enabling Technology.”