Advances in intelligent mobility assistance robot integrating multimodal sensory processing
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Mobility disabilities are prevalent in our ageing society and impede activities important for the independent living of elderly people and their quality of life. The goal of this work is to support human mobility and thus enforce fitness and vitality by developing intelligent robotic platforms designed to provide user-centred and natural support for ambulating in indoor environments. We envision the design of cognitive mobile robotic systems that can monitor and understand specific forms of human activity, in order to deduce what the human needs are, in terms of mobility. The goal is to provide user and context adaptive active support and ambulation assistance to elderly users, and generally to individuals with specific forms of moderate to mild walking impairment. To achieve such targets, a reliable multimodal action recognition system needs to be developed, that can monitor, analyse and predict the user actions with a high level of accuracy and detail. Different modalities need to be combined into an integrated action recognition system. This paper reports current advances regarding the development and implementation of the first walking assistance robot prototype, which consists of a sensorized and actuated rollator platform. The main thrust of our approach is based on the enhancement of computer vision techniques with modalities that are broadly used in robotics, such as range images and haptic data, as well as on the integration of machine learning and pattern recognition approaches regarding specific verbal and non-verbal (gestural) commands in the envisaged (physical and non-physical) human-robot interaction context.